Based on the popular Australian television series, Bush Mechanics: The Exhibition, on display now at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum, is a showcase of the ingenuity of outback mechanics, whose clever resourcefulness can turn branches, spinifex and sand into tools and spare parts to get cars back on the road.
Developed by the National Motor Museum, in close collaboration with the Warlpiri community and PAW Media who produced the series, the exhibition is a light-hearted exploration of the importance of the car to life in the outback.
“The National Motor Museum takes a wide angle lens to what is traditionally thought of as motoring culture and history,” said Paul Rees, Director of the National Motor Museum. “The Bush Mechanics is such an iconic series for many and varied reasons that it seemed appropriate that we celebrate it with a new life as a museum exhibition.”
Tracing the history of bush mechanics, the exhibition captures the show’s distinctive brand of humour. It features a range of items from the series, including two original cars, clay figurines, specially commissioned artwork and interactive displays. It also provides broader insights into Aboriginal life and culture.
For those not familiar with the original show, it is a quirky four-part series which follows five young Warlpiri men as they travel through remote outback Australia in vehicles in various states of roadworthiness, encountering a variety of mechanical problems.
Stuck in the middle of the desert with no tools or spare parts, each break down required a certain inventive bush resourcefulness to fix. The show first went to air in the early 2000s on ABC TV and reached over 3 million viewers.
“Museums Victoria is thrilled to be bringing Bush Mechanics: The Exhibition to Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum,” said Genevieve Grieves, Head of First Peoples. “We hope that visitors experience the magic and adventures of bush mechanics made so popular by the series, and discover something new about Aboriginal culture.”
The Ford Fairlane from the last episode of the series will be on show at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre for the first time since it was acquired. The car was painted with traditional Warlpiri designs and driven to Broome where it was traded for pearls to be used in a rainmaking ceremony.
The other car in the exhibition, the EJ Holden from the first episode, is an item that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the show. It is shown in two parts, where its roof famously caved in while transporting band equipment to Willowra. This setback was resolved by hacking the roof off and attaching it to the back of the car as a makeshift trailer.
Visitors can also admire clay figurines from the Bush Mechanics claymation, created to be viewable by those who, as some of the original cast are deceased, could not watch the original series for cultural reasons.
“This touring exhibition on Bush Mechanics is just the latest chapter in a story that started over 20 years ago in the little community of Yuendumu,” said Michelangelo Bolognese, Curator of Bush Mechanics: The Exhibition. “It has been such a privilege for the National Motor Museum to show this captivating aspect of life in Central Australia to audiences around the country, and it’s great to now see it in as important a venue as Melbourne Museum.”
Bush Mechanics: The Exhibition
Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson Street, Carlton
Exhibition: 9 March – 15 July 2018
Free entry with Melbourne Museum entry
For more information, visit: www.museumsvictoria.com.au for details.
Image: The Bush Mechanics claymation – courtesy of PAW Media