Ambitious exhibition features powerful Arnhem Land archive

Mulkun Wirrpanda, Milkarri Recording 2013. Image courtesy of the Mulka Project.

Monash University Museum of Art’s (MUMA) Shapes of Knowledge exhibition, which opened on Saturday, features ‘The Mulka Project’; a cinema of works from an archive in Yirkala in north-east Arnhem Land.

The Mulka Project sits within Yirkala’s Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, and helps to repatriate pieces of Yolngu cultural history, such as artwork, texts, videos and images which have been stored in various Australian and international institutions—bringing this knowledge back to country.

It’s also a space where the local community can produce audio-visual material and new media artwork.

As part of Shapes of Knowledge, The Mulka Project’s creative director and several artists will travel to and speak at MUMA about the archive.

Ishmael Marika, creative director of The Mulka Project, says the project works with artists and community to share stories of culture with the world.

“We want to keep our knowledge and our culture strong. We want to educate other people, outsiders, that want to learn our culture,” he said.

He also said that Mulka is incredibly important for the presence of culture in the local community.

“We wanted to settle our own archive here in our own community, so people can access and see their great-great grandfather, or family, and learn how our songlines go. We are thinking of young future leaders who grow up here and learn the knowledge from elders, and now we have documented archives for those future leaders.”

Many representatives of communities from around Australia have visited the Buku Larrnggay Mulka Centre to understand how the archive was built and how the community work together to create more content.

Mulka is driven by a want to engage with new media, with the focus on the process of experimentation and the use of materials which are central to Yolngu art history, connecting the past, present and people together.

Shapes of Knowledge has been described as ambitious, containing eight projects from artists and organisations world-wide. The projects reflect on how we live, learn and how art enables expression of experience.

The exhibition officially opened for the public on the 9th of February and will run until the Saturday the 13th of April 2019.

By Rachael Knowles

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