Museum’s ‘Songlines’ show bound for Europe

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Margo Neale, National Museum’s lead Indigenous curator with Minyipuru at Pangkal-Martumili Artists 2016. Photo: Jason McCarthy NMA.

IN a significant coup for the National Museum of Australia, its blockbuster exhibition “Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters” will travel to Europe next year.

“Songlines” will show at The Box museum and art gallery in Plymouth from June to October 2021 as part of the “UK/Australia Season”, a joint initiative by the British Council and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

It will then move on to the Humboldt Forum in the newly reconstructed Berlin Palace in Germany, from late 2021 through to early 2022.

The biggest coup of all is a planned exhibition in France’s indigenous art and culture museum, the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in 2023.

After Paris, the exhibition will continue its global tour, with planning underway for travel to North America and Asia.

Arts Minister, Paul Fletcher and Foreign Affairs Minister, Marise Payne, have announced $350,000 to support the tour to Plymouth in 2021.

“Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters” showcases five Indigenous western and central desert songlines, using around 300 paintings and photographs, objects, song, dance and multimedia to narrate the story of the Seven Sisters and the creation of this continent as they travelled from west to east.

The project that led to the exhibition was initiated by Aboriginal elders who set out to preserve the cultural knowledge of the Seven Sisters songlines and to promote understanding of songlines for all Australians.

Mathew Trinca, director of the museum, said he expected European visitors to the exhibition to be as captivated by the show as Australian audiences had been when it opened in Canberra in 2017.

“Nothing of this scale had been attempted before,” he said.

Margo Neale, the museum’s lead Indigenous curator, said, “This is not an art exhibition, a history exhibition or a science exhibition… it is all of these. It is both an Australian Aboriginal exhibition and a universal story of mankind. It offers us connectivity to each other and our planet in a fragmenting world”.

Tudor Evans from Plymouth City Council said, “As we move on from 2020’s Mayflower commemorations to reflect on the significance of Captain Cook’s voyages, ‘Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters’ will highlight the UK and Australia’s shared history and culture, explore our current relationship and imagine our future… We can’t wait to play our part”.

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Helen Musa
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