Bunjilaka

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Bunjilaka

Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum is a dynamic living cultural centre with an Indigenous garden, artists' space and exhibition gallery celebrating Victoria’s Koorie people and the relationship between Aboriginal people and the land.

Sorry Day 2013

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by John Patten
Publish date
4 June 2013
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John Patten is a Bundjalung / Yorta Yorta man on his father's side, and a descendant of First Fleet convicts via his mother. An educator and artist, he takes great joy in sharing knowledge with visitors to Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre.

On Sunday May 26, Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre partnered with Connecting Home to host an event for National Sorry Day. A time for reflection and healing, National Sorry Day pays tribute to the courage and vitality of the many Aboriginal people affected by past policies of forced removal. The day also serves to highlight the work that organisations such as Connecting Home are doing in the service of members of the Stolen Generations, and those similarly affected.

group of people Crowd at the Sorry Day event
Image: John Patten
Source: Museum Victoria

The afternoon kicked off with Bunjilaka’s Birrarung gallery being filled by the sounds of William Wandin-Dow’s didgeridoo, followed soon thereafter by a large and attentive crowd, who via MC Bryan Andy were given an appreciation for the significance of Sorry Day.

dancers Seven Sisters dance group
Image: John Patten
Source: Museum Victoria

A welcome to Country was performed by Kulin Nation elders Aunty Carolyn Briggs (Boon Wurrung), and Aunty Di Kerr (Woi Wurrung). They spoke of the day and its personal significance to each of them before a warm round of applause and the entrance to the gallery of the Seven Sisters dance troupe, who wowed the crowd with a tightly choreographed and evocative performance.

woman Alice Solomon
Image: John Patten
Source: Museum Victoria

The two key speakers for the afternoon then took their turns to speak to the crowd. The first to share her story was Zoe Upton, followed then by Alice Solomon. Both speakers were moving in what they had to say, and their heartfelt words remained in the crowd’s consciousness during the final performance of the afternoon, a clutch of songs sung beautifully and with great humour by the Koorie Skin Choir. 

Links:

Connecting Home

Reconciliation Australia

Recognise

MV Blog: National Sorry Day

MV Blog: Reconciliation Week 2012

The eels are back

Author
by Patrick
Publish date
28 May 2013
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Last week the Live Exhibits team went into the field in search of eels and other fish to restock the pond in Milarri Garden.

catching fish at night Live Exhibits keeper Adam Elliott demonstrates the best technique for transferring freshwater animals from nets.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Last year the iconic Short-finned Eels (Anguilla australis) living in Milarri pond were moved to the Forest Gallery water system while we repaired and resealed the pond. Now Milarri pond is back in operation and ready for new inhabitants.

Short-finned Eel Short-finned Eel
Image: Rudie Kuiter
Source: Aquatic Photographics
 

Prior to the Milarri pond works, regular eel feeding sessions were very popular with museum visitors, giving our staff the opportunity to highlight the importance of eels as a traditional food source for local Aboriginal people. In western Victoria, kooyang (eel) were trapped using woven nets in sophisticated aquaculture systems by the Gunditjmara people for thousands of years – one of the featured installations of the upcoming First Peoples exhibition at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum.

staff catching fish for Milarri pond Left: Maik Fiedel in deep water, checking his nets. Right: Melvin Nathan ensures the eels are well looked after in holding tubs.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We collected the new eels west of Melbourne under permit, and we also caught other fish such as Tupong (Pseudaphritis urvilli), Flathead Gudgeon (Philypnodon grandiceps) and Common Jollytails (Galaxias maculatus) boost stocks in the Forest Gallery creek and pond system. These are just a few of the 50 or so species of freshwater fish found in Victorian waters.

Native Victorian fish Clockwise from left: Common Jollytail, Flathead Gudgeon, Tupong.
Image: Rudie Kuiter
Source: Aquatic Photographics
 

Freshwater invertebrates, particularly Glass Shrimp (Paratya australis) were also collected to kick start the food chain in Milarri pond. Yabbies (Cherax destructor) will soon walk across land from nearby ponds, and many other invertebrate species will fly in or colonise via new plantings or by adhering to waterbirds. Pacific Black Ducks (Anas superciliosa), Little Pied Cormorants (Microcarbo melanoleucos) and other birds will soon arrive under their own power.

fish in a bucket Young Jollytails and Glass Shrimp swim around under a Water Spider (Megadolomedes species).
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Musuem Victoria
 

At the end of the collection trip, animal keepers Chloe and Dave released the eels into their new home, where they will live under the care of Live Exhibit staff for many years.

Man releasing bucket of fish Dave Paddock releases the last of the eels into Milarri pond.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Fish destined for the Forest Gallery must be quarantined for three weeks in tanks set up behind the scenes to ensure no parasites or pathogens are introduced to our resident fish population.

Live Exhibits lab at night Dave sets up Tupong in quarantine some time after midnight in the Live Exhibits Lab.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

A range of fish species as well as Macquarie Turtles (Emydura macquarii) can be seen daily in the Forest Gallery at Melbourne Museum. Silver Perch (Bidyanus bidyanus) and eel feeding presentations will recommence at Milarri pond in September when the water starts to warm and the eels’ appetites return.

Milarri Garden and Milarri Walk are open every day of the year except Christmas Day and Good Friday. 

Child’s play

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
15 May 2013
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Up in her studio in Melbourne’s CBD, artist and animator Isobel Knowles is working on something wonderful for the First Peoples exhibition. She is turning accounts of the traditional toys and play of Aboriginal children into beautiful animations for our young visitors. 

Isobel Knowles with paper cutouts Isobel Knowles in her studio with some of the paper cutouts she uses in her animations.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Isobel creates her animations with a combination of delicately cut pieces of paper, watercolour washes, photography and digital techniques. For this project, she took scripts that the exhibition curators wrote – mostly in collaboration with members of the First Peoples Yulendj Group – and brought them to life. Each animation shows the playthings in use which, in many cases, emulate the activities of the adults around them, such as nursing mothers and men hunting. Isobel has presented the stories with a deft touch of humour because, as she describes them, “they’re stories of the cheeky things that kids do.”

Paper cutout of paddlesteamer boat Isobel's materials: paper cutouts of a paddlesteamer and vegetation, and her storyboard sketches.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Isobel began with thinking about how she wanted the animations to feel and researching the landscapes of the different areas and the colours that would capture the Australian bush. “It’s been really nice working with Australian bush imagery,” she says. “Usually I’m referencing fairy tales so it’s a European look.” She also carefully considered how the children should appear. “I’ve been trying to research what they would wear but a lot of the reference pictures are during special events,” explains Isobel. Yulendj members helped her get these details right when she showed them the animations last week.

Paddlesteamer illustration Still image from a work-in-progress: Isobel's digital animation of the mudswitch story.
Image: Isobel Knowles
Source: Museum Victoria
 

In the Toy Story case of the Many Nations section, visitors will see the animated stories next to the actual toys. This section, with its animations, will be a key part of the museum's educational programs. The toys are from cultural groups across the country and they haven’t been on display before; many of them aren’t well-known outside their communities of origin.

Isobel says she’s enjoying the work and finding it incredibly interesting. “It’s a really exciting project for me and I feel very honoured to have been asked to do it and to contribute to such an amazing exhibition.”

Links:

Isobel Knowles's website

MV Blog: Modelling Myee's hands

MV Blog: Mudswitches on the plaza

Modelling Myee's hands

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
16 April 2013
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Last Friday Myee Patten, daughter of MV staff member Will Patten, came to work with her dad to stick her hands in a bucket of goo. This might seem an odd school holiday activity, but it will help exhibition curators demonstrate the toys of Aboriginal children in the Toy Stories section of First Peoples. For scale and context, children’s objects are best shown in the hands of children– so we needed to model some hands for this important task. Myee was willing to let us borrow her hands for the job.

Girl having her hands moulded Myee with her dad, Will, sitting very still and waiting patiently as museum preparators make a mould of her hands.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

This pink goo, or alginate, is most commonly used by dentists to make impressions of teeth. It’s non-toxic, flexible when set, and smells just like a dentist’s office! It’s also extremely fast-setting so the preparators mixed it up as quickly as possible and poured it over Myee’s hands as she held the poses needed to demonstrate the objects in use.

Two men stirring pink mixture Preparators Pete and Steven in a stirring frenzy as they mix up the pink goo as quickly as they can!
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Myee’s first job was to hold her hands as if cradling a baby, to support a clay doll from Milingimbi in Arnhem Land in the 1930s. The second time round, Myee held a fragment of lignum as if she’d just flicked a mudswitch, a popular game among children growing up along the Murray River.

Pete and Myee with the mould Pete and Myee with the freshly-set mould of her hands.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Myee did an excellent job of staying completely still while the alginate set. Once it was solid – and you can tell this because the colour changes from purple, to pink, through to white –  Myee carefully wriggled out of the mould, leaving behind an exact impression of her hands.

plastic tubs of liquid plaster Mixing up the plaster ready to pour into the mould. This is a special mix of plaster and cement that sets extremely hard.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Minutes after her hands were free, the preparators filled the moulds with hard-setting liquid plaster. A few hours later, they extracted the casts. The preps will remove any rough bits and prepare the casts for their important job of display. And in years to come, when Myee visits with her school or family, she can point out to her friends how she lent us a hand (or two)!

Removing the cast hands from mould Preparators Brendan and Pete carefully removing the cast of Myee's hands from the mould. This model will support the clay doll.
Source: Museum Victoria

cast of hand A cast of Myee's hand holding a piece of twig. The process that the museum's preparators use captures every skin wrinkle and tiny detail.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

MV News: Will Patten "Talking to everybody"

MV Blog: Mudswitches on the plaza

Kooyang diorama in First Peoples

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
22 March 2013
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The Kooyang ('eels' in the Gunditjmara family of languages) section of the upcoming First Peoples exhibition will feature an eel trap in a diorama of Western District eel-farming practice. The trap, woven from puung'ort (spear grass) by Gunditjmara woman Jody-Ann Agnew, tells the story of one of the world’s oldest aquaculture systems.

eel model And this is what it's all about - eels. This is one of several eels created for the diorama.
Image: Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Museum designers, curators, photographers and preparators have worked closely with Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Corporation to capture a slice of the Western District, complete with animals, plants and terrain typical of this area. The models and specimens of eels and other wildlife created by Dean Smith and Kym Haines are dazzlingly true-to-life, including a leech that Kym modelled from the little sucker that hunted him down when Jody's mother, senior weaver Aunty Eileen Alberts, took museum staff to Tyrendarra!

Dean with fish models Preparator Dean Smith holding models of native fish that he made for the Kooyang diorama. One is an unfinished cast, the other is fully painted.
Image: Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Steven Sparrey and Brendon Taylor are recreating the volcanic boulders of the Tyrendarra lava flow thrown out by Budj Bim (Mt Eccles) thousands of years ago. Gunditjmara people used these rocks to create an ingenious network of ponds, channels and dams to farm the eels. Aunty Eileen and Jody will oversee the final stages of the diorama construction.

Brendan Taylor working Preparator Brendan Taylor working on replicating the rocky terrain of the Western District.
Image: Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

First Peoples opens at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum on 7 September 2013.

Links:

Media News: Taking the eel-path to a shared history

Video: Lake Condah, Gunditjmara Country

Waa and the Seven Sisters

Author
by John Patten
Publish date
11 January 2013
Comments
Comments (3)

John Patten is a Bundjalung / Yorta Yorta man on his father's side, and a descendant of First Fleet convicts via his mother. An educator and artist, he takes great joy in sharing knowledge with visitors to Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre.

This summer Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum presents a follow-up to our successful Tiddalik the Thirsty Frog theatre show, with a local Kulin creation story – Waa and the Seven Sisters.

  woman in wig Nikki Ashby performing as the Seventh Sister.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The story tells how the Kulin peoples (the traditional owners of Melbourne and surrounding areas) were given the secret of fire by their creator, Bunjil, who often takes the form of an eagle. The story focuses on how the gift of fire was given to seven old women, who instead of sharing with the rest of the Kulin decided to keep fire for themselves. Thus, the Kulin's protector Waa (the Crow) conjured a plan to ensure the secret of fire is shared with everyone.

Woman in bird costume Uraine Mastrosavas performing as Waa the Crow.
Source: Museum Victoria

The show's cast this year are Uraine Mastrosavas, who we are very pleased to have back with us, after having been part of last year's Tiddalik the Thirsty Frog shows, and Nikki Ashby, an actor, dancer and choreographer. The show is directed by Michael Camilleri.

Theatre set with purple lights A dramatic moment on the set of Waa and the Seven Sisters.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Audiences are a major part of the show, making up part of the cast and interacting with the performers both on and off stage. There is plenty of music, singing, laughing and dancing.

boy in bird mask A young member of the audience performing as Jert-Jert.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre also has a free summer activity running in the Birrarung gallery where children and their families can make and colour in their own Bunjil the Wedge-tailed Eagle glider, decorated with traditional Victorian Koorie art motifs, to take home.

Waa and the Seven Sisters runs until 28 January at 11:00 AM, noon and 1:00pm, every day except Saturdays. Adults $10, children $5, MV Members receive discount admission.

Links:

What's On: Waa and the Seven Sisters 

Melbourne Museum School Holiday Program

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