Posted by Jeremy Eccles | 05.06.08
Author: Jeremy Eccles
Was the Aboriginal art contribution to the new Musee du quai Branly in Paris a huge beat-up by Australia's cultural diplomats? Or was it a genuine and lasting tribute by the French to the oldest extant culture in the world?
You'll have a better chance of answering that after viewing indigenous film-maker Julie Nimmo's film documentary, Songlines to the Seine. Admittedly there's a gruesome scene where about 200 cultural aparachniks stand around during what's described as "a private viewing", waiting for Gulumbu Yunupingu's judgment on the blown-up version of her bark art on the museum's ceiling. But, as with much in the film, the artist herself saves the day with her heartfelt comment that "The stars (in her painting) are crying", and she cries too, overwhelmed by the vast installation.
The Australian project may have been consigned to a back lane administrative building at the museum – though Nimmo doesn't stress that. But she does cleverly juxtapose Yunupingu's stars and a glittering Eiffel Tower against the night sky.
Nimmo then escapes from Paris and contentious issues of museology – which are much better covered in the Sally Price book, Paris Primitive and heads bush with artists Yunupingu, Paddy Bedford and Judy Watson. All have moving moments relating their country to their art – made even more moving by the death of 'Old Man' Bedford since the film was made. She even comes up with an Aboriginal view on museology: "A museum is like a cave – it's where you keep your precious objects".
I wonder why we had to wait 2 years for this film after the Musee's opening in June 2006?
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