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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters, Perth Australia

The first major temporary exhibition to go on show at the WA Museum Boola Bardip is Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters, from November 2020.

This exhibition took my breath away with its beauty, complexity, simplicity and energy of the Aboriginal stories. Initiated by Aboriginal elders to preserve the stories of the Seven Sisters for future generations and to promote understanding, it has exceeded its original intent. This is Noongar beauty. (The Noongar are Aboriginal Australian peoples who live in the south-west corner of Western Australia)

‘Songlines is a cross-cultural term, a passport to the deep knowledge embedded in the land which we now all share. They are our foundational stories about the creation of this continent and critical to the sense of belonging for all Australians,’ said National Museum lead Indigenous curator, Margo Neale. -

Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters portrays the drama of creation, desire, flight and survival by telling the story of a journey made by a group of female Ancestral Beings who are pursued by a powerful, mythological, shape-shifting figure.

There are over 300 works of art in the exhibition. The journey starts even before you enter the building, with a symbolic smoke display outside the museum.

Watch and listen to Aboriginal elders tell their stories. Hear their words as they share their tales with you. It feels as if they are speaking directly to you.

Stand amongst the stars as a light show transits from the Orion constellation to the Pleiades star cluster.

Be impressed by the many paintings of Songlines.

Yarkalpa Hunting Ground by the Mantu women. - We need to share it, and talk about it, and protect it - keep it strong.

Ngallak Koort Boodja Canvas represents all 14 Nyoongar clan groups and their connection to Country.

The Kungkarrangkalpa Yulanga Songline 2016 is a cross cultural storyboard, explaining the ten sites along the Wanarn songline and the events at each site.

You can almost see the fright in the lifesized grass weavings of the sisters being chased across Country.

Grass, rafia, wire, feathers, wool, wood and stone are used to create a display of women's tools and bush food. "The sisters left behind their food carriers (piti) and witchetty grubs (maku) as they took to the sky to escape Wati Nyiri." The digging sticks are used by women to unearth edible grubs, roots and burrowing animals. Grinding stones are used to turn seeds and grains into flour.

I was entranced by the photography of the Kura Ala caves. "That is Nyiri looking" - Lalla West 2016. This is a special women's only place where girls went to become women and have a time for healing. Is it just me, or is this cave looking at me?

At the end of your journey through the exhibit there is a display of an actual art room that modern day Aboriginal artists use. An amazing dog blanket adorns the wall and tells the true story of five senior women stranded in the desert for five days when their car broke down. They relied on their knowledge of the bush to follow the birds and find food and water and they survived.

There is a quote on the wall of the exhibit from David Miller, artist and former chair of the Ananguku Arts, 2010.... "You mob got to help us... those songlines they been all broken up now ... you can help us put them all back together again."

This collection of art works pays tribute to David's words. I learnt a great deal by attending here and felt the love of the history from the land and its people - both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. Set aside at least two hours to fully experience this amazing exhibition. It is definitely worth visiting. Opening hours are 9am - 5pm 7 days a week. You can show up, or book online. The museum is located in Perth city, a short walk from the Perth train station and bus station.

WA Museum Boola Bardip is on Whadjuk Nyoongar land.

They recognise and respect the Traditional Owners of this Country and their connection to the lands, waters and skies.

Happy Travels!

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