Indigenous Cultures

DISPLAYING POSTS FILED UNDER: Indigenous Cultures (40)

Indigenous Cultures

We work closely with Indigenous peoples to undertake research, to develop collections and to curate exhibitions relating primarily to Indigenous peoples of Australia and the Pacific region.

First Peoples' Cultural Workshops

Author
by John Patten
Publish date
20 September 2012
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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.

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

Nicky Winmar's jumper

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
18 September 2012
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Throughout the 17 April 1993 St Kilda vs Collingwood match at Victoria Park, Collingwood supporters hurled racist taunts at two Aboriginal St Kilda players. At the end of the game, with St Kilda victorious, midfielder Nicky Winmar lifted his guernsey and pointed proudly at his skin. 

Nicky Winmar's AFL jumper Nicky Winmar's 1993 AFL season jumper, which he was wearing when he made his famous stand against racism in sport.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Photographs of this spontaneous gesture became a powerful symbol of Aboriginal pride and a statement about the problem of racism in sport. Historian Joy Damousi was in the audience at the match and reflected upon that moment on a May episode of ABC Radio National's 'Life Matters'.

This particular moment is really one of the most significant events in Australian cultural history...A simple material object that can encapsulate an era, a mood, a period, a turning point and Nicky Winmar's jumper does that beautifully...

Museum Victoria held a celebratory event at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum this morning to announce our acquisition of Winmar's jumper. The year after the famous gesture, Winmar traded the jumper with his friend Tim O'Brien, a former basketballer for the NBL. O'Brien put the jumper up for sale in May this year with the proceeds planned to fund a documentary film about racism in sport. MV purchased it for display in Bunjilaka's forthcoming First Peoples exhibition, using funds reserved for acquiring important objects for the museum's collections.

After reflecting on Nicky's brave action on that momentous day in 1993, Bunjilaka Manager Caroline Martin, Museum Victoria CEO Dr Patrick Greene and Tim O'Brien unveiled the jumper together at the event this morning, much to the excitement of those gathered around.

People with St Kilda football jumper L-R: Dr Patrick Greene, Tim O'Brien and Caroline Martin with Nicky Winmar's jumper this morning.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

"This jumper represents a proud moment in history for Australia's First Peoples," said Caroline Martin. "It symbolises pride and strength in our culture and we are delighted that future visitors to Bunjilaka will be able to commemorate the inspirational story behind this jumper, as we did today." 

Links:

'The day the game changed' by Nabila Ahmed, The Age19 April 2003

Reed necklace

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
11 September 2012
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173 years ago today, on 11 September 1839, a reed necklace held in the MV Collection was collected in the Melbourne area by George Augustus Robinson. The necklace is one of five he collected during his tenure as Chief Protector of Aborigines for Port Phillip (1839-1849).

reed necklace Reed necklace collected by GA Robinson in 1839. It is made from 162 hollow reed segments strung on vegetable string. (X84452)
Image: Photograph: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The necklace belonged to a man from Port Phillip whose name was recorded as Po.un.deet (elsewhere spelled Wo.un.deek or Porrundeet). In his later journals, Robinson recorded the name for the reed necklace as teer.er.rer.gone.burt, and observed the local custom of presenting necklaces as a greeting to friends. In an entry from 6 June 1841 he described what happened when a family visited his station:

Mar.ke, the native woman at Tulloh's [property], after some mutual exploration appeared highly pleased at meeting with my native attendants. She recognized an old acquaintance and, without ceremony, took the kangaroo teeth ornaments that adorned his hair and reed necklace that adorned his neck and decorated her child therewith. This I observed to be the custom of the natives when meeting with friends.

The wonderful story of Porrundeet's teer.er.rer.gone.burt will feature in the Many Nations section of the new First Peoples exhibition at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre.

Links:

GA Robinson, Protector of Aborigines (State Library of NSW)

Sir David drops in

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
21 August 2012
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Sir David Attenborough, in Melbourne for a speaking tour, visited Melbourne Museum unannounced last Wednesday with his daughter. Although he's best known for his natural history work, Sir David is fascinated by anthropology. He has collected Australian Aboriginal shields for many years, including rainforest shields from Queensland, and was keen to see local examples from the MV Indigenous Cultures Collection.

The seemingly unfortunate timing of his visit – Bunjilaka's permanent exhibitions are temporarily closed for redevelopment – actually turned out to be very good timing. Sir David mentioned to Kim Kaal in customer service that he had hoped to see Aboriginal shields on display. Quick-thinking Kim grabbed Bunjilaka's John Patten as he was walking past. Within a few minutes, John and colleague Kimberly Moulton arranged a tour of the collection store where the Bunjilaka Redevelopment Team has been working on the object-rich Many Nations section of the new exhibition, First Peoples.

David Attenborough with museum staff Sir David Attenborough with members of the Bunjilaka Redevelopment Team, looking at objects selected for display in First Peoples.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Sir David spent almost an hour talking with curators and collection staff about the objects selected for the exhibition. Rosemary Wrench, the curator of Many Nations, says that he was fascinated by the objects and asked detailed questions about their provenance, designs, creation and use. He was especially pleased to hear that First Peoples will have such a strong focus on the people and cultures of south-eastern Australia. His considerable knowledge about artefacts was apparent, but he was still wonderfully surprised by unfamiliar items, such as possum jaws used to engrave designs into tools and objects.

David Attenborough with museum staff Curator Rosemary Wrench talking with Sir David Attenborough about objects selected for First Peoples.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Sir David's favourite object was an etched shield from New South Wales. He examined it for some time and said, "That is magnificent, and worth a trip all the way to Australia just to see this." He was also particularly interested in a Victorian spear thrower and its ornate designs; he studied it very closely and described it as "remarkable and intriguing." He was very glad to hear that these and other treasures will be on display in First Peoples.

Aboriginal shield front and back Aboriginal shield from New South Wales, showing the elaborately carved front and the handle at the back. (X1047)
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria

Detail of Aboriginal shield Detail of the exquisite carving on the front of the NSW shield.
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Mudswitches on the plaza

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
25 July 2012
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Sometimes exhibition development can take a surprising turn. Last week, Aunty Esther Kirby, a Barapaparapa Elder, brought branches of lignum and mud from the banks of the Murray River to demonstrate a traditional Koorie children's toy called a mudswitch. Aunty Esther is a renowned carver of emu eggs but it turns out she is also a phenomenal flinger of mud!

Aunty Esther Kirby Aunty Esther Kirby, champion mudswitcher.
Image: Amanda Reynolds
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Aunty Esther is a member of the Yulendj group that is guiding and advising the Bunjilaka development team as they work on the new exhibition, First Peoples. Yulendj is a Kulin word for 'knowledge' and the group comprises Koorie Elders from south-eastern Australia. It was formed out of the community consultations held all around Victoria in 2010 and 2011.

Says curator Amanda Reynolds, "If you think about traditional culture, when big meetings and gatherings were held to talk about relationships between groups, or marriages or ceremonies, or teachings, Elders would gather and make decisions and present different views. Yulendj is a modern-day version of an ancient tradition."

Yulendj members spent three days at Melbourne Museum last week in the fourth intensive workshop about the exhibition’s content, tone, and cultural permissions. "It's like asking 20 academics to come and contribute all their knowledge that’s been built up over a lifetime – you can imagine the richness of knowledge and history that’s coming out," says Amanda.

Over the three days, Yulendj members viewed objects selected for display in the new exhibition, provided oral histories, collaborated on designs for the exhibition's texture wall, talked about how certain objects should be displayed, and more. At the end of the workshop, Aunty Esther showed how to use the mudswitches out on the Melbourne Museum Plaza. She proved herself an expert mudswitcher, flinging balls of Murray mud much higher and further than anyone else. "She’s got the best swing," says curator Genevieve Grieves. Stories of childhood mudswitching mischief came out, including recollections of hiding in the reeds to shoot mud at tourists riding in the river's paddle steamers.

People on plaza with mudswitches Yulendj members and Museum Victoria staff on the plaza with mudswitches.
Image: Amanda Reynolds
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Mudswitches will be part of a section of the exhibition called Toy Stories, which will display a range of toys used by Aboriginal children across Australia. This playful section, with its animations and low-set display cases, will specially cater for very young visitors.

Two women on the Plaza Titta Seacombe (left) and Paola Balla celebrating a successful mudswitching.
Image: Amanda Reynolds
Source: Museum Victoria

Woman playing with mudswitch Vicki Couzens playing with a mudswitch.
Image: Amanda Reynolds
Source: Museum Victoria

John Patten John Patten playing with a mudswitch.
Image: Amanda Reynolds
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

Tangled Lignum

NAIDOC Week 2012

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
2 July 2012
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Comments (4)

Each year, NAIDOC Week celebrates the stories, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The theme for this year is they dared to challenge, in tribute to the people who established and protected the Aboriginal Tent Embassy over the past forty years.

People at smoking ceremony People gathered at this morning's smoking ceremony in Milarri Garden. In the foreground are Patrick Greene and Genevieve Grieves.
Image: Ben Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The start of NAIDOC Week (1-8 July 2012) was marked this morning at Melbourne Museum by a smoking ceremony, with Genevieve Grieves and Mandy Jones raising the Aboriginal flag. Says Bunjilaka Manager Caroline Martin, "Each year we raise a new Aboriginal flag in the Milarri Garden and hold a smoking ceremony; this signifies for us a new year, a symbolic gesture of renewal, honouring the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities both past and present."

  People watching flag-raising Genevieve and Mandy raising the Aboriginal flag.
Image: Ben Healley
Source: Museum Victoria

At the event, CEO Patrick Greene launched the Koorie Guide to Melbourne Museum, a hot-off-the-press, free guidebook to Aboriginal stories embedded within all the galleries of the museum.

Koorie Guide to Melbourne Museum The cover of the new Koorie Guide to Melbourne Museum.
Source: Museum Victoria

Caroline explains that the guide was produced "in response to complaints when we closed the permanent exhibition." The main gallery of Bunjilaka closed earlier this year to allow construction of the new permanent exhibition, First Peoples, that will open in mid-2013. "People were disappointed that they'd come to the museum for an Aboriginal experience, and in their eyes there was no Aboriginal content, which isn't true. Over the last few years, any time a new exhibition was developed, we've talked to the curators to include Aboriginal content."

The Koorie Guide highlights the stories and culture of the traditional owners of Victoria that are embedded in Melbourne Museum's exhibitions. In Wild: Amazing animals in a changing world, visitors are greeted at the entrance by the eagle Bunjil, while in The Melbourne Story, there is a single raven, the only bird in the display that isn't labelled with its scientific name. This is Waa, a sacred figure from Koorie creation stories. "Bunjil is creator of the land, waterways and people and Waa is the protector of all," explains Caroline.

Another purpose of the guide is to show another view of the museum's displays. In the western districts of Victoria, an area near Portland is remembered for the 1829 battle between whalers and Gunditjmara people over the ownership of a beached whale. The Koorie Guide links the popular Blue Whale skeleton exhibit with these Convincing Grounds, so-called because of the terrible violence used by whalers to 'convince' the local people of their right to the whale.

Caroline Martin Bunjilaka Manager Caroline Martin speaking at the NAIDOC Week event this morning.
Image: Ben Healley
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Caroline worked with colleagues John Patten, Liz Suda and Museum Victoria's Design Studio to compile the Koorie Guide to Melbourne Museum, and she encourages visitors to request a copy of the guide from the cloakroom desk. Come in to Bunjilaka to enjoy the special NAIDOC Week events at Melbourne Museum, too.

Performance in Bunjilaka Accomplished didgeridoo player and Wemba Wemba man Ron Murray performing in Bunjilaka today, as part of NAIDOC Week visitor activities.
Image: John Patten
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

NAIDOC Week official website

MV News: NAIDOC Week 2010

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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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