Brilliant Boola

The Tjanpi Desert Weavers by Annieka Skinner, map of the Canning Stock Route, and a section of the route in 2007 by Tim Acker/FORM.

 TWO special exhibitions showcasing Aboriginal culture are some of the highlights at the new WA Museum Boola Bardip.

The award-winning Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters is the culmination of more than five years of collaboration between Aboriginal communities and the National Museum of Australia.

It has the world’s highest resolution six-metre-wide travelling dome, where visitors are immersed in images of Seven Sisters rock art from the remote Cave Hill site in South Australia, as well as animated artworks and the transit of the Orion constellation and the Pleiades star cluster. 

Highly immersive and experiential, visitors journey along the ancestral routes of the Seven Sisters as they flee across deserts, pursued relentlessly by a lusty sorcerer known as Nyiru or Yurla. 

It’s an epic tale of tragedy and comedy, obsession and trickery, desire and loss, solidarity and sorrow — a universal drama played out in the night sky by Orion and the Pleiades, with a terrestrial creation story where the land has a starring role. 

The project leading to this exhibition was initiated by Aboriginal elders who wanted to preserve the Seven Sisters stories for future generations and custodians, while promoting a broader understanding of songlines.

Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters features significant Western Australian stories, so it is fitting that WA Museum Boola Bardip is the first venue to present the exhibition outside Canberra, before it embarks on a global tour. 

Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route is about the expansion of the WA mining and pastoral industries in 1906, which led to the surveying of a 1850km cattle track from Kimberley stations to markets in the south.

This track, and the wells that were created along its length, became known as the Canning Stock Route.

Similar stock routes were established across Aboriginal lands throughout Australia.

The artworks in the exhibition depict the story, disruption, and diabolical impact of one such track, told from the perspectives of diverse Aboriginal peoples whose country it crossed.

It is a story of contact with kartiya (white people), of conflict and survival, of exodus and return. Above all, it is a story of family, culture, country and resilience.

Yiwarra Kuju means ‘one road’ in Mandiljarra, a shared language used by the 10 Aboriginal language groups who participated in the making of the exhibition. Songlines closes on April 26 and Yiwarra Kuju in November next year. 

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