This course starts with some research required into a source of personal interest and suggests using museum collections amongst other resources. It goes on to suggest that students may like to arrange viewings of particular collection items with the relevant curator. With a tentative subject in mind I phoned the Australian Museum to see if they could help me. I was advised that a trip the following day would be acceptable and that I would be able to be left for a period of time with certain items to photograph and draw.
So off I went. On arrival I was met with amazed stares from the staff who knew nothing of my arrangement. When asked who I had spoken to I had to admit to not having taken the name of the gentleman but I had noted that he sounded of Indian descent and very knowledgeable. Imagine my amazement when I was told that I had had a fascinating and insightful conversation (and made the arrangement with) the security guard!!
After a little confusion all was well and I was able to see the items I was interested in. This blog post is not going to cover that part of my visit as it will be detailed later. Here I wish to share a couple of things I saw later during the day when I wandered through the Indigenous Gallery.
Having recently done a little basket weaving, and now understanding how arduous it can be, I was interested to see both old and new examples of aboriginal basketry. The museum has some very new artworks on view and the Pondi (Murray River Cod) made in 2009 is one of them.
Made by Yvonne Koolmatrie, who lives and works in Berri, South Australia, this fish basket is a large solid dimensional structure well more than a metre in length. It is made from sedge grass and river rushes. Her artist statement reads: The Murray Cod it is a beautiful big fish. It is one of the creators of the creeks and the rivers. My belief is that they pull too many Murray Cod out of the river. That is why (the river) is drying up. They are taking the life out of the river. I don’t know if that is true or not but I do know that a similar thing can be said of saltwater cod – well overfished. Let’s hope the sea doesn’t dry up!
The stingrays below are also very large and raised above the floor giving a feeling of movement as their shadows play across the ground when you move around the exhibit. They are a group of seven but I couldn’t get them all into the photo.
I took a couple of close-ups because I thought the weaving looked very interesting. Or is it classed as weaving? It looks very like fish netting needle weaving to me. Again, these are large pieces, each getting on for 1.6m nose to tail tip.
This complete exhibit was made in 2008 by Frewa Bardaluna, who lives and works in Maningrida, Arnham Land, Northern Territory, and is simply entitled Stingrays. Materials used are pandanus fibre and wood. Her artist statement reads: My mother teach me to weave baskets, string bags and now I am making yawkyawk (freshwater spirits) and making stingray. The stingray is in the river and the saltwater; there is a big mob in the river. We get the stingray when we are fishing. We eat it. It is good tucker.
I saw some interesting and diverse items over the course of the day and learned more about Australian indigenous culture along the way.
The Gallery states:
Aboriginal Australia is the longest continuous living culture on earth. This gallery plays tribute to the traditional and contemporary culture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The land you are standing on is the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. Eora territories spread from the south of Sydney – Georges River and Botany Bay – to Sydney Harbour, west to Parramatta and north to Pittwater at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River.