It is acknowledged that Australian Aboriginal culture is heavily spiritual and symbolic, but a rock engraving in a national park near Sydney suggests that the indigenous belief system represents a deep knowledge of the sky and the motion of the bodies within it.
Scientists at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have presented the hypothesis that Aborigines – whose existence stretches back, unbroken, for more than 50,000 years – could have been the world’s first astronomers.
Coalsack Dark Nebula (within the Milky Way) is known to the Wardaman Aboriginal people as the head of the ‘Emu In The Sky’.
The rest of its body falls to the left, seen as the darkness between the stars.
In the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, near Sydney, is an ancient Aboriginal rock engraving of the Emu In The Sky, oriented in such a way so as to line up with the nebula where it appears in the sky at the time when real-life emus are laying their eggs.
This engraving, and the CSIRO’s research, could change people’s understanding of Aboriginal people and the development of advanced human thinking.
The Kondhs are the largest tribal group in Odisha, formerly Orissa.
Their culture centres on nature and sacred hills. Utkal Alumina is mining the 200m tons of bauxite under the Baphlimali hills, while the 8,000-plus Dongria Kondh on the Niyamgiri hills have lived under the threat of mining there by Vedanta Resources.
Image Credit: Photograph byJohann Rousselot /Survival International
Heist gallery founder, Mashael Al Rushaid, says her new exhibition ‘Origins’ draws on the narratives of ‘indigenous peoples on the corners of the planet, whose lives have remained unchanged for centuries’.
It’s bound to raise a few eyebrows, especially when one of its principal contributors, photographer Jimmy Nelson, has previously been accused of presenting a “damaging” picture of tribal peoples.
But, if you can leave aside the politics of portrayal, the collection of photographs – many of them portraits – from a range of international photographers, is stunning.
A single Rankin eyescape at the gallery’s entrance focuses the viewer on the eyes in other works.
Often belonging to bodies that are decorated in paint, lavish jewellery, headgear, they connect us: the large brown irises in Mario Mariono’s gypsy girl Suman; those staring from behind a mask of jewellery in Xavier Guardans’ Rembes; from a mass of white fur, or under a hat of flowers, in Nelson’s Nenet and Dropka.
With the project Before They Pass Away, the photographer Jimmy Nelson spent three years, from 2010 to 2013, to visit the endangered tribes around the world, to deliver a poignant testimony to a disappearing part of human history.
A vibrant photographic tribute that reveals beautiful portraits of more than 35 tribes, ethnic groups and folklore, from Mongolia to New Zealand through Russia, Papua New Guinea, Kenya or Ethiopia.
The project has also been published in the book Before They Pass Away.