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Hanoi awakes to the Dreamtime

An art work on display at the 'Seasons of the Kunwinjku' exhibition
'Seasons of the Kunwinjku,' an exhibition reflecting the lyrical grace of the rich artistic tradition of northern Australia's West Arnhem Land, will open at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi.

The show, starting on Tuesday July 23 will present 13 works by eight artists selected from among many Kunwinjku artists belonging to the contemporary art movement.

The seasonal cycles of West Arnhem Land present astonishing contrasts, from the monsoon rains and electrical storms to the stillness of parched and dusty earth. At other times, the contrasts are more subtle. For the Kunwinjku, these contrasts and subtleties translate into six distinct seasons.

'Seasons of the Kunwinjku' demonstrates just how accessible some Aboriginal communities are prepared to make their art without compromising on their traditional beliefs and value systems. The collection is a superb survey of works from the Kunwinjku clans of West Arnhem Land. Many of the stories contained in the collection relate to the Dreamtime, the time of creation when ancestral beings journeyed across the land creating animals, birds, reptiles, trees, rivers. In telling their clan's ancestral stories, the Kunwinjku artists have cleverly adapted ancient art forms to modern formats: from rock and bark to paper.

The form however, remains distinctive and includes paintings of animals and fish in x-ray-style, illustrating the internal organs. The Kunwinjku also paint small, dynamic mini figures and spirit ancestors. The backgrounds to the paintings are usually monochrome, which until the 1970s were a wash of red ochre. In more recent times, white, yellow and black backgrounds have been used. Carbon dating ,has revealed some Kunwinjku rock art to be 23,000 years old.

Aboriginal people have lived in Australia for 50,000 years. Theirs was a culture that did not build monuments, but instead expressed itself through more ephemeral arts - of a ceremonial nature - that included elaborate body painting and head dress, ground design, sand sculptures and wood carving. In truth, much of the past is not recoverable. Where the past does exist in material form, however, is in rock engravings and paintings, or as the genre is better known, rock art. Through rock art one is able to glimpse something of the sheer brilliance of ancient traditions, aware that such achievements precede by millennia the Palaeolithic rock paintings, of Altamira Lascaux in Europe. The exhibition will be open to the public everyday, except Monday until August 15 at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology at Nguyen Van Huyen Road, Cau Giay district, Hanoi. (VNS)

Reprinted with permissison from Nhan Dan Newspaper


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