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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.

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TAGS

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

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
13 SEPTEMBER 2013

Mapping Manhattan: a public art project mapping personal experience

"Becky Cooper, a 24–year–old cartographer and writer... asked New Yorkers–and visitors–to map their own versions of Manhattan. She took to the streets, distributing 3,000 copies of a hand–printed outline of the island and encouraged participants to "map who you are or where you are; the invisible or the obvious". All copies were self–addressed and stamped so they could be mailed back to her.

Cooper says around 10% of the maps were mailed back and Mapping Manhattan features 75 of the best contributions. Some are heartbreaking (one person mapped key places in his life, from the first apartment he shared with his wife to where she later died); many invoke humour (a map of lost gloves, pictured above); some are confessions (a student who shows how she funded her studies with work at various strip joints). Some are handscrawled in biro, others are collages, and a few use watercolours."

(Vicky Baker, 15 May 2013, The Guardian)

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2009 • Adam Gopnik • around us • Becky Cooper • belongingbirocartographycity mapscultural memorydaily activitydiversity of experienceshand-drawnhand-drawn maps • hand-printed outline • hand-scrawled • heartbreaking • juxtapositionlocation-specificManhattanmapmakingmapping • Mapping Manhattan (project) • memoryNew YorkNew Yorkeroutline drawingpathpersonal cartographypersonal experienceplacepublic artqualitative descriptionsrememberingspatial narrative • strip joint • territoryurban mappingwayfinding

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
10 MARCH 2013

CityViewAR: remembering Christchurch before 4 September 2010

"CityViewAR is a mobile Augmented Reality application that allows people to see how the city was before the earthquakes and building demolitions. Using an Android mobile phone people can walk around the city and see life–sized virtual models of what the buildings looked like on site before they were demolished, and see pictures and written information. Hundreds of 3D models of key city buildings have been made available from architect Jason Mill of ZNO, while the Christchurch City Council and Historic Places Trust have provided photographs and building histories.

CityViewAR is based on the HIT Lab NZ Android AR platform which uses the GPS and compass sensors of mobile phones to enable virtual information to be overlaid on live video of the real world. Android AR makes it easy for Android developers to build their own outdoor AR applications. The software was previously used for showing individual buildings, but this is the first time that it has been used to show dozens of buildings at once, and the first time in world that mobile phone AR has been used for earthquake reconstruction."

(HIT Lab NZ, 2011)

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CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
15 NOVEMBER 2012

Do Look Now: A playful meditation on sexual pleasures

"From academic and cinephile Helen Yeates comes this 16–minute mash–up of sexual and erotic scenes that creatively pushed the sensual boundaries of cinema, challenging audiences over the last four decades.

An ironic intercutting of arousing and transgressive scenes, Do Look Now creates a provocative interplay of love, sex, desire, humour, nostalgic yearning and cultural memory.

Part postmodern pastiche, part cut–up passion project, Yeates's creation explores the contours of female eroticism and sexual politics, playing with the way context can lend fresh meaning and nuance to sexual depictions."

(Brisbane International Film Festival, 2012)

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2012arousalBrisbane • Brisbane International Film Festival • challenging audiences • cineaste • cinema • cinephile • cinephilic understandingcontextcultural memorycut-up techniquedesire • Do Look Now (film) • erotic sceneseroticism • female eroticism • female sexuality • Helen Yeates • humour • intercut • intercutting • ironiclovemash-upnostalgic yearningpostmodern assemblagepostmodern pastiche • provocative interplay • sensualitysexualsexual depictions • sexual pleasure • sexual politicssexualitytransgression • transgressive scenes

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
07 OCTOBER 2012

Open Urban: Know Your City - Map, Inform, Discuss

"OpenUrban is the first open source user–generated web map and forum focusing on current and proposed urban development. It is a web platform for civic collaboration, a venue for debate, and an outlet and archive for information on urban development. We embrace crowd sourcing technology as a means to inform and empower. By combining written media with spatial information OpenUrban creates a powerful tool for people to understand how their cities are changing and supports their active participation in that change."

(OpenUrban, 2012)

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CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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