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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: indigenous (4)

Beyond Bunjilaka

Author
by Katrina
Publish date
9 April 2012
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Your Question: Now that the Jumbunna exhibition space in Bunjilaka has closed, what Aboriginal cultural experiences can I have?

The exhibition space 'Jumbunna', part of the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at the Melbourne Museum has closed for an exciting redevelopment of the space.

Former exhibitions in Jumbunna include Koori Voices, Belonging to Country and Two Laws. The redevelopment will see a stronger focus on the vibrant and living Victorian Aboriginal culture and will provide dynamic and contemporary experiences as well as showcasing items from the incredible Aboriginal cultural material collection held in trust by Museum Victoria. The gallery will remain closed for redevelopment until mid-2013; however, Bunjilaka remains open, hosting a range of Aboriginal experiences.

Birrarung Birrarung
Image: James Henry
Source: Museum Victoria

Birrarung Gallery, located in the Bunjilaka, is a space dedicated to Victorian Aboriginal artists and is where you can experience some of the best Aboriginal artists in Australia, showcasing their culture and talent through various art forms, from painting and photography to 3D installation and audio visual. This space has three exhibitions a year and is currently exhibiting River Woman by Aunty Barb Egan, which explores her connection to her home of Robinvale, in the northwest of Victoria, and to the Murray River through a series of lino prints, embossing and painting.

‘River Woman’ exhibition in Birrarung River Woman exhibition in Birrarung
Image: James Henry
Source: Museum Victoria

Aunty Barb Aunty Barb
Image: James Henry
Source: Museum Victoria

Bunjilaka also has an indigenous plant garden called Milarri. This will remain open for visitors to learn about the natural resources important to Aboriginal people of southeastern Australia and about their traditional uses. Melbourne Museum's Forest Gallery, also displaying indigenous plants and animals, is another space where you can learn creation stories of Melbourne and about the seasons of the Kulin calendar, traditionally used by the Aboriginal people of Melbourne and surrounds.

Aunty Barb in her studio Aunty Barb in her studio
Image: Kimberley Moulton
Source: Museum Victoria

The Koori Voices exhibition is currently being de-installed and will be re-installed within the museum for visitors to experience by July 2012. Bunjilaka's weekend and holiday programs will be run throughout the year and can be viewed on the Melbourne Museum and Bunjilaka websites.

The education sessions 'Our Shared History' is still available and can be booked through the museum booking office. Our Shared History is an opportunity for visitors to learn about the history and diversity of Australia's Aboriginal cultures, with a strong focus on Victoria and southeastern Australia. Learn about Victoria's 38 language groups, Aboriginal usage of both indigenous flora and fauna, and many other facets of Victoria's vibrant Aboriginal cultures.

From April 21 through to June 24, Bunjilaka will be hosting a fun weekend activity for children called 'Bunjil's Bullroarers'. Children and their families will have an opportunity to learn about, make and decorate their very own bullroarer. The bullroarer is a traditional musical instrument used by Aboriginal people for communication and ceremonial purposes.

Got a question? Ask us!

Links

River Woman exhibition

Southern Grasstree

Author
by Brendan
Publish date
1 April 2012
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Exhibition horticulturalist Brendan Fleming is turning April's Bug of the Month post into Plant of the Month. He is one of the Live Exhibits staff that tend the plants in the Forest Gallery and Milarri Garden.

From an early age I have enjoyed bushwalking within the Grampian Ranges in western Victoria. One particular plant species found there that fascinates me is Xanthorrhoea australis, the Southern Grasstree. X. australis is the most widespread of the genus of 30 odd species and subspecies. It is found down the eastern coast of Australia.

Southern Grasstrees A spectacular display of Southern Grasstrees following a bushfire in the Grampians.
Image: Brendan Fleming
Source: Brendan Fleming
 

Its appearance is unlike any other indigenous plant. Older grasstrees have a blackened, sometimes gnarled elevated trunk, with bluish-green whorled leaves that seem to explode from the crown and drape down to skirt the stem.

The Southern Grasstree is very slow-growing. It grows approximately one to three centimetres per year, reaching a height of three metres in about 100 years. It has a shallow root system and is found in even the poorest of soils. Whilst not generally occurring in areas with less than 250mm rainfall, it does best in areas exceeding 500mm per year. Southern Grasstrees are found in the understorey of woodlands, heaths, swamps, and rocky hillsides.

Grasstree species are mostly distinguished by the shape of their leaves in cross-section. X.australis has a diamond shape, and with the leaves being softer than other species.

apex of a Southern Grasstree Close up of the apex of a Southern Grasstree in Milarri, showing a single diamond-shaped leaf in cross section.
Image: Brendan Fleming
Source: Museum Victoria

From germination it takes about seven years to reach maturity, and although sporadic flowering and fruiting can occur thereafter, X.australis generally flower following fire. It is not well understood why fire stimulates reproduction, but cutting off the leaves can also initiate flowering. Application of ethylene, which is present in smoke, has a similar effect, indicating that flowering is stimulated from a hormonal response to leaf removal.

I found an extraordinary scene following bushfires several years ago in the Grampians National Park. Thousands of flower spikes up to 3m high as far as the eye can see, even curly ones, evoking some Leunig illustration!

Grasstree flower spikes Although most flower spikes are perfectly vertical, I occasionally see odd shapes at the Grampians.
Image: Brendan Fleming
Source: Brendan Fleming

The flowers are highly scented and produce much nectar, prized by birds, mammals and insects which pollinate the flowers. Each stalk can produce up to 10,000 seeds.

Southern Grasstree flower spike Close-up of the Southern Grasstree flower spike showing individual flowers.
Image: Brendan Fleming
Source: Brendan Fleming
 

Southern Grasstrees are quite susceptible to Phytopthora cinnamomi (root rot), often being the first plants to show symptoms. Hence they are a good indicator of the presence of the disease.

Drenching Southern Grasstree roots with Phosphonate Drenching with Phosphonate is a good way to boost the Southern Grasstree's defences against the Cinnamon Fungus Phytopthora.
Image: Chloe Miller
Source: Museum Victoria

Xanthorrhoea australis is not difficult to propagate. Seed germinate readily in just a few weeks, with no pre-sowing treatment required. Just be patient though - growth is very slow. A grasstree I germinated from seed was well-established but still trunkless after 10 years, and made a handsome addition to my garden.

Grasstrees feature heavily in Indigenous culture. Uses include weapons and fire sticks from flower stalks, sweet drinks from flower nectar, and edible leaf bases.

I don't have to go to the Grampians to enjoy grasstrees. The Milarri Garden at Melbourne Museum displays these remarkable plants right in the heart of Melbourne. Exit the Forest gallery to the North terrace and meet Milarri from its western end. It really is a dramatic entrance to the Museum's Indigenous garden.

Grasstrees at the entrance to Milarri Walk Grasstrees at the entrance to Milarri Walk from the North Terrace during autumn.
Image: Brendan Fleming
Source: Museum Victoria
 

References:

Flora of Tasmania

Wrigley, J. & Fagg, M., 1983, Australian Native Plants, William Collins, Sydney, 512pp.

Tjukurrtjanu to travel

Author
by Simon
Publish date
5 March 2012
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Your Question: Which Museum Victoria exhibition is going to Paris this year?

The stunning Tjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert Art exhibition, a collaboration between the National Gallery of Victoria and Museum Victoria in partnership with Papunya Tula Pty Ltd, is off to France. This exhibition was on show at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia and is now being carefully packed to be sent to Paris for display at the Musée du quai Branly in October this year.

Big Pintupi Dreaming ceremony 1972 Anatjari Tjakamarra, Big Pintupi Dreaming ceremony 1972
Image: NGV
Source: National Gallery of Victoria © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
 

It is a wonderful example of cooperation between public institutions and generous private lenders to bring together and showcase over 200 paintings completed between 1971 and 1972 from the Papunya region of the Western Desert. This initial production of paintings represented the founding of the Western Desert art movement and led to an explosive growth in the Aboriginal art movement. Museum Victoria has loaned numerous artefacts for this exhibition from its extensive collections. Tjukurrtjanu also presents 150 objects, including 78 painted and incised shields, spear throwers, pearl shell pendants, stone knives, head bands and ephemeral body ornaments, that establish the paintings pre-existing Western Desert iconography.

Group of decorated shields from Central Australia Group of decorated shields from Central Australia
Image: Museum Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The Musée du quai Branly is a recent addition to the museum scene in Paris, opening near the base of the Eiffel Tower in 2006. It has a collection of some 300,000 objects and is well known for its beautiful external ‘living walls’ featuring a variety of living plants and mosses. The museum exists to display and promote the indigenous cultures of Oceania, Asia, Africa and the Americas. It already holds collections of Aboriginal art from the north and central desert regions of Australia; bark paintings from Arnhem Land collected in the 1960s, contemporary acrylic paintings and a ceiling spectacularly painted by Indigenous artists.

Old Man’s Dreaming at Mitukatjirri 1972 Charlie Wartuma Tjungurrayi, Old Man’s Dreaming at Mitukatjirri
Image: NGV
Source: National Gallery of Victoria © artists and their estates 2011, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Limited and Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
 

The Tjukurrtjanu exhibition will show a Parisian and European audience how Aboriginal people use art to tell their stories and to ensure the continuation of their culture.

  Exterior of Musee du quai Branly Exterior of Musee du quai Branly, Paris
Image: Andreas Praefcke
Source: Wikimedia Commons
 

Australian artists have had huge success in overseas markets over the years, the Tate Gallery in London holds works by Sidney Nolan; Russell Drysdale enjoyed overseas acclaim as do current Australian artists such as Ron Mueck with his hyper-real sculptures. Yet it can be argued that Australia’s Indigenous artists and their art are currently the best known examples of Australian art in the rest of the world. Indeed, this is the first time that an art exhibition solely developed by the NGV and Museum Victoria has been accepted in a major European venue.

Links:

National Gallery of Victoria - Tjukurrtjanu

Museum Victoria: Collections and Research – Indigenous Cultures

Papunya Tula Artists

MV Blog: Tjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert Art

New Indigenous culture books

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
7 November 2011
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Each year, the MV library develops a particular area of the book collection. This year it's the Indigenous section receiving attention, which will assist the team working on the redevelopment of Bunjilaka and the researchers of the Indigenous Cultures Department. Over 50 books, many of them out-of-print and very rare, were purchased from Grants Bookshop for an average price of less than a modern day paperback. With increasing costs for interlibrary loans, purchasing our own copies for MV makes sound financial sense, too.

Display of new Indigenous culture books Display in the MV Library of the newly-aquired books about Indigenous culture and history.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Research associate Jason Gibson talked about the nature of these books, some of which date back to the 1940s. "They often take a classical anthropological perspective, that you don't see much of any more. There were problems with this approach but in terms of the detail captured, it's fantastic." He explained that these books were largely written by non-Indigenous anthropologists attempting an objective, scientific analysis of Indigenous people. "It was often the first time Indigenous languages, traditions and cultural practices had been documented in written form and therefore these texts have become very important for Native Title research as well as museum studies."

Librarian Leonie Cash laments the closure of many of Melbourne's second-hand bookshops that makes these books even harder to obtain. Even now when books are becoming available in electronic form, physical books are still popular for researchers who spend much of their day looking at a computer screen and would prefer to read from paper.

Jason, Emma and Rose with new books L-R: Jason Gibson, Hayley Webster and Rose Bollen looking at the new books.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The books are on display in the MV Library for staff to peruse and borrow. Of particular interest is the acquisition of the first edition of an American Philosophical Society publication of 1941 Aboriginal Australian String Figures, including string figure illustrations of the bandicoot, python, boomerang, and canoe.

Links:

Indigenous Cultures collections

MV Blog: Following the travelling Tjitingalla

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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