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.

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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Comments (9)

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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Comments (3)

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
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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.

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

Help us plan our future

Author
by Melinda
Publish date
9 November 2012
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Comments (5)

Melinda is the manager of MV's Governance and Planning Department.

Between our three museums—Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks and the Immigration Museum— we exhibit world cultures, the science of our planet and universe, and Victoria's history and biodiversity. We take the show on the road and online, through the Discovery Program and our website.

Teacher with students Point Lonsdale Primary School students at the launch of the Surprises of the Cosmos exhibition at Scienceworks in 2011.
Image: Ben Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Woman in gallery Muthi Muthi Elder and artist Aunty Barb Egan with one of her artworks in her River Woman exhibition that was on show at Birrarung Gallery, Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre earlier this year.
Image: James Henry
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We also look after the Royal Exhibition Building, and our 158-year-old scientific and cultural collections assist research into critical contemporary issues.

Dancers at Flinders St King Marong and members of the Safara Music School perform outside Flinders Street Station at the media launch of the West Africa exhibition at the Immigration Museum, 2010.
Image: Heath Warwick
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Planning for Museum Victoria's future is a mammoth and exciting task. We would like to hear what you value about Museum Victoria to help us steer the museum on behalf of all Victorians.

Please tell us: What do you like best about Museum Victoria? What do you think we could be doing better? What new things would you like to see us doing in the future?

You can leave your answers as a comment on this post, or if you'd prefer to reply privately, drop us a line via the Discovery Centre form

First Peoples' Cultural Workshops

Author
by John Patten
Publish date
20 September 2012
Comments
Comments (2)

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.

In preparation for an upcoming series of cultural workshops to be held at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum, I recently ventured into the field with John Duggan to collect a range of materials required to run the workshops.

Man on a beach John Duggan searching the beach for suitable rocks.
Image: John Patten
Source: Museum Victoria
 

John is a Gamilaroi man and the Assistant Collections Manager for Australian Collections in MV's Humanities Department. Together we travelled to south western Victoria to collect flint for making traditional stone knapped spear points and blades, Pomaderris shafts for the production of spears, Xanthorrhoea (Grass Tree) resin for making a traditional glue, and several varieties of timber for carving traditional tools and weapons, including shields, digging sticks, clubs and boomerangs.

John Patten with rocks John Patten selecting beach rocks for the workshops
Image: John Duggan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Man holding rock John Duggan selecting rocks suitable for making traditional knapped spear points and blades.
Image: John Patten
Source: Museum Victoria
 

During our journey we encountered a wide variety of flora and fauna, ranging from herds of emus and large mobs of kangaroos, to wombats and echidna. We also facilitated a special intervention, where John Duggan removed a dozen or more bush ticks from the body of a Shingleback lizard. Traditional food and medicinal plants that we encountered included Pig Face, Kangaroo Apple, Salt Bush and Red Fruit Saw Sedge.

wombat A baby wombat among bracken encountered during the trip.
Image: John Patten
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Stars in the night sky The night sky above south western Victoria during the trip.
Image: John Patten
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The First Peoples' Cultural Workshops, which will become a regular part of Bunjilaka's programming, are part of an aim to build a central knowledge base for Koorie artists, to equip them with the necessary resources to pass along a range of traditional skills and knowledge to their own communities across Victoria and beyond.

The first workshop will be delivered by John Duggan, who is acknowledged as a skilled artist and creator of traditional stone tools.

Stone Knapping Workshop
Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre
Friday 5 October, 10:30am – 3:00pm
For further information or to book your place in the Cultural Workshop series, please contact John Patten on 03 8341 7352

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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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