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07 NOVEMBER 2014

Songlines: How Indigenous Australians Use Music to Mark Geography

"There are many different methods of pre–literate navigation that have been documented around the world. One of the most unique, a fusion of navigation and oral mythological storytelling, originated among the indigenous peoples of Australia, who navigated their way across the land using paths called songlines or dreaming tracks. In Aboriginal mythology, a songline is a myth based around localised 'creator–beings' during the Dreaming, the indigenous Australian embodiment of the creation of the Earth. Each songline explains the route followed by the creator–being during the course of the myth. The path of each creator–being is marked in sung lyrics. One navigates across the land by repeating the words of the song or re–enacting the story through dance, which in the course of telling the story also describe the location of various landmarks on the landscape (e.g. rock formations, watering holes, rivers, trees). In some cases, the paths of the creator–beings are said to be evident from their marks on the land (petrosomatoglyphs), such as large depressions in the land which are said to be their footprints (parallels can certainly be seen in some North American First Nation creation stories).

Songlines often came in sequences, much like a symphony or album today. By singing a song cycle in the appropriate order could navigate vast distances, often travelling through the deserts of Australia's interior (a fact which amazed early anthropologists who were stunned by Aborigines that frequently walked across hundreds of kilometres of desert picking out tiny features along the way without error). Each group had its own set of songlines that were passed from generation to generation so that future generations would know how to navigate when in neighbouring tribes' territories. The extensive system of songlines in Australia varied in length from a few kilometres to hundreds of kilometres in length crossing through lands of many different Indigenous peoples. Since a songline can span the lands of several different language groups, different parts of some songlines were in different languages corresponding to the region the songline was navigating through at the time, and thus could only be fully understood by a person speaking all of the languages in the song."

(The Basement Geographer, 21 October 2010)

Fig.1 "What are song lines?" Colin Jones, lecturer in Aboriginal History, talks about his culture, his history and his art. Queensland Rural Medical Education.



Aboriginal mythologyancestral beings • ancestral heroes • animist belief systemAustralia • Colin Jones • creation narrative • creation spirits • Creator Beingscultural memory • cultural webs of memory • dreaming (spirituality) • dreaming tracks • earth motherFirst AustraliansFirst Nations • genii loci • geographical point • Indigenous Australians • kin-grouping system • kinship • landmarkslandscapelocationmappingmarkers • mythological storytelling • navigation systemnavigational methodsoral historiesorientationorigin myth • paths • petrosomatoglyph • place • point-to-point • pre-literate navigation • pre-literate societiessequences and spatial practisessmooth space • song cycle • songlinesspatial literacyspatial narrativespiritualitysymbolic placeterritorytimeless timetopology • totemic ancestors • voice map • watering holewayfinding


Simon Perkins
18 MARCH 2011

A house is a symbolic place that regulates privacy

"A house is a symbolic place combining paradoxical concepts that can easily be identified as 'binary codes.' Internal and external, private and public, female and male, sacred and profane, clean and dirty are binary codes used to explain roles and activities of people in spaces (Lawrence, 1990; Ünlü, 1999). The spatial configuration of house layouts may be different in different periods, regions, cultures, and societies. Societies establish order in their livelihood spaces and reflect their personalities in these spaces.

There is a mutual relationship between space and human relations. The differences in social systems reveal morphological diversity in house layouts. The family contains the socio–economical structure of society; although it is a small element, it is the cornerstone that forms the future of society. The family needs a specific space, a house, to achieve this function based on their characteristics and the desired level of privacy (Sungur and Çagdas, 2003).

Privacy is a dynamic topological property of space; therefore, it should be approached in an analogous manner. Spaces could be categorized not only depending on their degree of privacy, but also according to their capacity to regulate privacy. At the same time, complementary approach counters the strict categorization of spaces into either public or private. According to that point of view, architectural space and its various elements should act as regulators of privacy. Space and its elements should be able to increase or decrease privacy according to the customized needs of its occupants (Georgiou, 2006).

Robinson (2001) identified different zones of privacy within a single Midwestern house and pinpointed their importance for the individual. Robinson argues that through a series of spaces with different degrees of privacy, the autonomy of the resident within a small social group is provided. Furthermore, the individual is granted a large measure of control over time, space, activity, and social interaction."

(Faris Ali Mustafa, Ahmad Sanusi Hassan and Salahaddin Yasin Baper, August 2010)

Faris Ali Mustafa, Ahmad Sanusi Hassan and Salahaddin Yasin Baper (2011). 'Institutional Space, Domestic Space, and Power Relations: Revisiting territoriality with space syntax', Asian Social Science, Vol. 6, No. 8, ISSN 1911–2025 (Online), Canadian Center of Science and Education


architectural space • clean • degrees of privacy • designdesign formalismdirtydwelling • external space • functional design • habitationhousehuman relations • interior • interior architectureinterior design • internal space • intimacy gradients • layoutmorphologyplaceprivacyprivateprofaneregulationsacredsacred spacessequence of spacesspacespatial configurationspatial literacysymbolic placeterritorytopology


Simon Perkins

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