Carefully curated exhibition captures treasured moments

Aboriginal cultural heritage objects from one of the most important anthropological collections in the world has gone on display at the University of Melbourne.

The Awaken exhibition includes almost 200 items gathered from communities in Arnhem Land, Cape York and the Western and Central Desert over 50 years by the late anthropologist Donald Thomson.

It has been curated by Worimi Nation filmmaker and Melbourne Museum Director of First Peoples Genevieve Grieves, with Rosemary Wrench, and Kaantju woman Shonae Hobson.

Digital labels, including 3D images and virtual reality of the objects have been used in the exhibition in the Arts West Gallery.

Ms Grieves said the richness of the collection lay in how Professor Thomson worked with communities.

“These objects have been interpreted in conjunction with people from the communities of origins and they awaken when they are once again connected with these communities,” she said.

For Jessie Bartlett, from the Lake Mackay area of the Western Desert in WA, where Professor Thomson spent time in 1957, the exhibition captures treasured moments.

She said it was at Lappi Lappi Rockhole that Professor Thomson filmed an Aboriginal man with one leg making a sandal. Both the sandal and the film are included in the exhibition.

“We’re fortunate to have the photos and the film and the objects here,” Ms Bartlett said.

“A lot of the people in those photos I had relationships with. My nanna was in there, my grandfather, my great-grandfather, my nanna’s uncle. It just brings joy. Not just for myself but for everyone else in my family. It’s a really close connection and we are really fortunate to have all that.”

* The Awaken exhibition will be on display at the Arts West Gallery on Professor’s Walk at the University of Melbourne Faculty of Arts until the end of 2020.

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