River of Language

MM River of Language Brendan Kennedy - photo by Thomas HollowayA multimedia soundscape exhibition that celebrates UNESCO’s International Year of Indigenous Languages and the 25th Anniversary of the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages (VACL), Melbourne Museum presents River of Language at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre from 29 June 2019.

Co-curated with VACL, ngulu wurneet, galada-al wurrung-u, parniwaru tyalingi, waran woorroong-ee, barringgi dyaling – River of Language encourages visitors to be immersed in Aboriginal ways of Knowing, Being and Doing, and learn through listening and observation.

The VACL curatorial working group of Vicki Couzens and Brendan Kennedy ask visitors to take the time and “learn to see the world through our eyes, through our words, stories and images.”

In Aboriginal culture, land and language are inextricably linked. Language is directly connected to place, through the mimicry of animals and nature in dance; the visual language in body art, motifs and symbols in stone etchings, sand paintings and ceremonial ornaments, music and sound vocalisation; and the naming and relationship of all things, embodying the interconnectedness of our existence.

As celebrated Wathaurong Community Linguist, Tarndop David Tournier (dec) so eloquently expressed, “Language is Culture, Culture is Language, Language is Land, Land is Language, Family-Language, Language-Family…one can’t live without the other…”

Melbourne Museum and the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre will be transformed into a vivid mixed media experience that explores language as culture, knowledge and empowerment. River of Language challenges the audience to observe cultural protocols on their approach and entry to the exhibition.

Met by spears and shields, visitors are asked: What is your purpose here? What do you know of our First Peoples Languages? Why is language so important? Filtering through the spears and shields, visitors will continue into the Welcome to Country space where the Law of the Land – to listen, learn and respect the laws of the Bunjil – are offered.

A collaboration between young indigenous creatives and the exhibition curators will see the wall of the Birrarung Gallery come to life with a striking 28 metre mural depicting Ancestral Creation Beings and honouring Victoria’s 44 language groups.

“It is a privilege for us to partner with VACL and young local Koorie people to promote and preserve precious Indigenous languages,” says Museums Victoria’s Head of First Peoples, Shannon Faulkhead. “We see rich value in an ongoing partnership between Museums Victoria and VACL, and look forward to future opportunities.”


River of Language 
Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre – Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson Street, Carlton
Exhibition: 29 June – 13 October 2019
Free with museum entry

For more information, visit: www.museumsvictoria.com.au for details.

Image: Artist Brendan Kennedy – photo by Thomas Holloway

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