There, they stand, in video images on life-size screens, at the entrance to Quai Branly Museum’s “Songlines” exhibition, an event dedicated to the art of Australia’s First Peoples. These men and women, often very old, are the “elders” who carry the Aboriginal communities’ legends. They pass on “dream songs” to the younger ones, and symbolically to us.
The Quai Branly Museum presents nearly 200 painted works with an abstract look: they are covered in very vivid figures and colours, warm browns, purples, khaki greens … Relying on video, immersive installations and small panels that decipher these paintings, we manage to make us aware of something else in these compositions graphical. These panels describe both the itinerary, such as a map showing rocks or water points, and the legendary saga of the Seven Sisters. These brave women cross three deserts from west to east, pursued by a sorcerer who wants to violate them.
Halfway through, a darkened room lets you lie down and watch a 360-degree video projection on a vast 6-meter-diameter dome: the visitor finds himself immersed in Walinynga Cave, or Cave Hill, in Australia. This rocky site is linked to the story of the Seven Sisters, with paintings dating back thousands of years, and others from the 1970s, continuing the legendary tale.
The seven heroines are then found throughout the gallery, represented on panels, and in three dimensions by sculptures made from herbs from the bush. The places they pass through, and the areas where they find medicinal plants as well as fruits, are indicated by specific signs and constitute valuable knowledge that allows them to survive in the desert. ” Their way of responding by staying united in the face of a violent man fits with our concerns today.describes Margo Neal, Curator at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, and lead curator of the exhibition.In this legend, we find the importance of brotherhood, caring for others, and resilience.»
“Songlines – Song of the Track of the Australian Desert” through 2 July at Quai Branly Museum.
The Songlines Gallery can be accessed for free at the Australian Embassy (XV).