The Australian National Maritime Museum were asked to participate in TABA NABA – Australia, Oceania, Arts by Peoples of the Sea exhibition at the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco. Living Waters was a key theme of the exhibition developed by curator Erica Izett and featured items from our own Indigenous collection. Donna Carstens, Manager of Indigenous Programs at the Maritime Museum worked closely with Erica to select collection items that support the exhibition themes.
For thousands upon thousands of years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have navigated their way across the lands and seas of Australia using paths called songlines or dreaming tracks. A songline is based around the creator beings and their formation of the lands and waters during the Dreaming (creation of earth). It explains the landmarks, rock formations, watering holes, rivers, trees, sky and seas.
Object of the Week: Kunmatjs
Kunmatjs are dilly bags from the Northern Territory used for carrying small fish such as catfish. They are a common item across many Indigenous groups in the Northern Territory and known by a number of different names depending on their region of origin. This bag is painted with red ochre and decorated with painted images of catfish in white clay. Traditionally dilly bags were left unadorned but artist Lena Yarinkura has decorated this kunmatji to express her local Aboriginal culture. Lena Yarinkura is an artist from south central Arnhem Land who works with fibres, barks, bronze and aluminium. Her works cover ceremonial regalia, baskets, bark paintings and sculptures. She has exhibited locally, nationally and internationally since 1987.
Dilly bags are traditional bags used for gathering food and could be hung around the neck in order to leave the hands free. They are typically woven out of natural fibres including grasses, animal tendons and reeds. Depending on the region of their origin, these bags have a variety of names and are produced from different materials. They are typically left undecorated without paint when used for their traditional purpose of gathering food. Today they also serve an artistic purpose and are often painted with images such as catfish.
Pandanus is a common material used in Arnhem Land for making baskets, bags and traps. The plant grows in Queensland, the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia in damp environments near creeks and waterways. The top leaves of the plant are collected, stripped and dried in preparation to be woven into traditional objects such as baskets, mats, fishing nets and sculptures.
This kunmatj is representative of Indigenous weaving techniques and functional carrying equipment used in the Northern Territory. It is a common utilitarian object used by men and women when hunting and gathering food. Today these functional items are also produced for artistic purposes.
Hi there, Mariko here. I had a week off from my internship last week, and am now back at work again with my Indigenous Communities collection research project on a select group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and their artworks.
I was very keen to get back to the museum – not just because I have heaps of work to do (which I really do…) – but also because I heard George Clooney was in town and hanging out at Pyrmont and Darling Harbour, tantalisingly close to the Wharf 7 building.
Unfortunately, George didn’t stick around long enough to fit in with this week’s internship schedule, however I managed to pull myself together and get on with the tasks at hand. This included continuing on with my object and artist record updating (for both the museum’s internal collections management system and for potential audience-facing material); kicking off the image reproduction approval process with emails; and working on a fun activity which will be the focus of this blog post today.
This activity marks the next stage of my project to combine object and artist biographical information in a geographical context, and plugging the research into the form of a Google map.
Since this is a prototype and still very much a work-in-progress, I haven’t included a visual of it here, but in case you’re not familiar with this great interweb tool – here’s a mock-up showing the museum’s (and George Clooney’s previous) location.
View Australian National Maritime Museum in a larger map
We are hoping to use the finished product on the museum’s website to provide visitors with a way to connect the artworks with the actual physical locations they are related to – whether this may be the places they were made, or the places that inspired or featured in the artwork. The idea is to demonstrate that these objects have a life and presence beyond the museum and online space, and especially for many Indigenous Australians, showing the strong influence of country on life and culture. It is also something which could be easily replicated for other objects and collections.
Next week will be my last post for 2011, so I thought it would be fitting to do a re-cap of the Indigenous-related exhibitions the museum has been involved with this year.
PS – If you missed my last post, you can read it here.