The songlines of the Seven Sisters is one of the most ancient, a creation saga that encompasses human emotions, from lust and love, flight and survival, passion and danger, intrigue and mystery.
It's a story that features a dramatic chase across the Australian desert and now it's at the heart of an exhibition at the National Museum of Australia.
Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters is a ground-breaking exhibition, showcasing five indigenous Western and Central Desert songlines, using some 100 painting and photographs, song, dance and multimedia to narrate the story.
The exhibition opens on September 15 and runs until February, 2018.
The project was initiated by indigenous elders who set out to preserve their stories for future generations and to promote understanding of songlines among all Australians.
Margo Neale, the museum's senior indigenous curator, said there was an urgent need for the exhibition.
"If you live in this country you need to know the foundational stories," Dr Neale said.
"You need to know its creation, you need to know why you're here.
"Your whole identity and sense of belonging is dependent on knowing the stories that occurred before 220 odd years ago."
Indigenous collaborators travelled to Canberra from Martu country, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra lands. They settled in the high-tech DomeLab, an immersive mutlimedia experience, laughing, holding hands, reclining under the animated stars of the Orion constellation and rock art from Cave Hill.
Others wandered through the exhibit, perhaps pausing in front of one of their own paintings. Nola Taylor collaborated on the work Yarrakalpa (Hunting Ground), a huge painting which is a topographic replica of the lands around Parnngurr, the Seven Sisters flit along the edge, pursued by the lustful Yurla.
Curtis Taylor is a young filmmaker who has contributed to Songlines. Photo: Karleen Minney
Curtis Taylor, Ms Taylor's grandson, is a filmmaker and young Martu leader, who contributed a short film.
"The idea for this film came about when I was exploring local stories from Parnngurr to make into short films," Mr Taylor said.
"I wanted to tell our traditional stories in a new way, be able to share it at the click of a button with the world, or with an individual."
The film is narrated by Kumpaya Girgirba, the most senior person in the Western Desert region.
"Kumpaya is a respected and very senior person so there's no question from other persons about her telling this story."
It's this collaboration which has occurred, even at the community level, between the young and old, which is at the core of Songlines.
The mob, Dr Neale said, wanted to "future proof" the songlines for future generations.
Anawari Inpiti Mitchell, custodian of the Seven Sisters songline at Kuru Ala, in the Ngaanyatjarra lands said it was crucial to keep the young ones interested.
"This story is a really good one for the young ones to learn," she said.
"That's the story for them to get learned, look and they might like it and good for them to learn for the future."
NMA director Dr Mathew Trinca said Songlines was one of the most important exhibitions the museum had ever staged.
"I am immensely proud of Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters," he said.
"It's a culmination of more than five years of collaboration between indigenous communities and the National Museum. Nothing of this scale has been attempted before."
The art centre hub reflects those found in indigenous communities. Photo: Karleen Minney
The exhibition also features an art centre hub, based on the Aboriginal-owned art centres dotted across the Central and Western Deserts. Many of the artworks on display were painted in such centres which are used to teach not only art, but business skills and leadership in the communities. Visitors can engage in activities and there will be a series of demonstrations from indigenous artists during the run of the exhibition.
Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters opens at the National Museum of Australia on September 15 and runs until February 25, 2018.
We're at the National Museum of Australia for a sneak peek at the fabulous Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters exhibition ...Posted by The Canberra Times on Wednesday, 13 September 2017