Exhibition poster for the Ilgarijiri exhibition in Perth

Further to my previous post on Alma Nungarrayi Granite’s paintings from Warlukurlangu Artists at my home town of Yuendumu I found a fascinating set of links between Aboriginal art, the sky and the objects we find there and modern science.

In many ways these links are very similar to the kind of connections that I find in the work that I’m doing on the connections between Aboriginal knowledge and birds – but in the case of Aboriginal astronomical knowledge there seems to be a far more active interest and real curiosity on the part of some astronomers in the Aboriginal equivalent to their work than there is with their counterparts in the the mainstream ornithological scientific community.

And I didn’t know it before I had a close look at this exhibition but 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy.

I can’t quite recall how I came across the link to what looks like a an absolute cracker of an exhibition of Aboriginal art from the Geraldton region of Western Australia but I ended up at this blog site for the “Ilgarijiri – things belonging to the sky” exhibition that fired up in April 2009 and has quickly seen an exhibition up and running.

Right now if you are in Perth you can see the show at the exhibition space at the Curtin University.

The Wajarri Yamatji people of the Murchison region of Western Australia are the Native Title claimants over the region including the Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory (MRO), a site being developed as the potential location for the next generation of large radio telescope – the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), as well as SKA precursor telescopes such as the CSIRO Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) and the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA).

The focus of “Ilgarijiri – things belonging to the sky” is a collaborative project between artists associated with the Wajarri Yamatji region, via the Y-ART cooperative in Geraldton, and radio astronomers from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), based in Perth, Western Australia.

The project brings together Aboriginal artists and scientists to exchange an celebrate different perspectives about the night sky and to explore those perspectives in art.

Here are a few of the images from the exhibition:

Emu Egg time, by Sonya Edney

I’m curious as to whether the reference to “Emu Egg time” in this painting by Sonya Edney is a reference to the changing positions of certain star clusters or constellations over time and if they may serve as an indicator of the right time to harvest Emu eggs in the artist’s homelands.

Quite a few Aboriginal people have told me about their knowledge of certain elements – whether it be the position of objects in the night sky, the flowering of certain plants or the movements of birds and animals in or out of their areas – and that these observations are intertwined with their knowledge and exploitation of the plant and animal worlds around them.

And the following images show, to some degree at least, the pan-continental nature of Aboriginal knowledge and beliefs about prominent constellations and star clusters.

These paintings of the Seven Sisters (also known as Pleiades) are the same subject as discussed in my previous post of Nungarrayi’s vision of the Seven Sisters from here in the Tanami Desert – thousands of kilometres to the east of the Murchison  region.

Seven Sisters, by Gemma Merritt
Seven Sisters by Margaret Danishewsky

Unlike Nungarrayi’s painting I don’t have any of the stories for these images and I’d love to hear more about the content and the artists connections to the land and the sky as they put it down on canvas.

I’ll look out for this exhibition and some further information about the project over the next couple of weeks as I move down the west Australian coast – and if you’ve seen the exhibition I’d love your comments about the art, the artists and the project as a whole.