I get many amazing gifts doing the work i do and I am humbled by and grateful for them all... This exhibition gives me two of them....spending time with the art, reflecting, always seeing new things and especially in the quiet of the day. I also have the privilege to meet and work with people who are passionately engaged in their fields of endeavour.
Please see Dr Ewen Jarvis' excellent summary of our first free community conversation, The Aboriginal Night Sky ...
Kamilaroi woman and astrophysics student Krystal de Napoli spoke eloquently about the creative richness and layered depths of the songlines that often allow for the controlled and timely release of traditional wisdom. She also highlighted and explained how totally different sets of information can be gathered according to the gender of the researcher in the field especially in communities where there is traditional women's knowledge and traditional men's knowledge.
Dr Duane Hamacher, Senior Research Fellow, Monash Indigenous Studies Centre, explained the importance of recognizing how rich indigenous systems of sky knowledge are and how reliant we are on outdated cultural knowledge often collected and recorded without appropriate methadological scrutiny. He stressed how much Western astronomy has to learn from traditional Indigenous Australian astronomy, revealed that in Australian Indigenous culture the stars often change names according to the time of year, and described the dark emu's movement across the sky noting its correlation to certain Indigenous initiation ceremonies. He also pointed out that Australian Indigenous people are often remarkable sensitivity to the subtle colouration of stars.
Dr Jarita Holbrook, American astronomer and associate professor of physics at the University of the Western Cape, observed that many other indigenous cultures are aware of and have stories that refer to the hidden star in The Pleiades cluster, while noting that they acquired this knowledge without the use of telescopes. She also revealed that in some cultures these stars represent a group of males but in many more cases they represent women/sisters. In addition, she pointed out the challenges of being a female in heretofore male-dominated scientific disciplines, citing in one instance the natural propensity of young female students to giggle and young male students to strut: the result being that male students are often rewarded for their strutting, but the giggling of female students is rarely seen in a positive light. Jarita also drew our attention to the presence of mythologically resonant astral bodies like Algol, the Medusa star, which blinks a red eye at the earth every few days.
Dr Ewen Jarvis, curator Yering Station Art Gallery, explained how the night sky resembles a library, i.e. a vast system of encoded narratives. He used examples from the 'Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters' exhibition at the Australian National Museum to draw attention to creative Indigenous engagement with earth and sky, and went on to question the degree to which Western empirical knowledge of the sky can benefit from the creatively rich and temporally expansive depth of Australian Indigenous sky knowledge.