More than four dozen AAFSW members and other guests gathered at the Australian Embassy on October 23, to enjoy a guided tour of the fascinating Indigenous art exhibit from the Island of Milingimbi, off the remote Northern Coast of this interesting continent.
The Australian Embassy received us with a very warm welcome, and the Cultural Attaché was very informative, giving us lengthy and detailed information about the Country Down Under with its fascinating history, agriculture, geography, landmarks, business and art, as well as the many islands occupied for over 40,000 years by the fascinating Aboriginal peoples who provide a special touch of cultural richness and diversity to Australia.
The Island of Milingimbi, among many other islands in the region, is a central point for cross-cultural contact and research. As in ancient Greek times, these islands hold a high place in society.
For the Yolngo people who live on this island, “Gapu Murnuk” means the coming together of fresh and salt water, the muddy and the clean, deep dark colors and bright colors. In their art, natural materials from the earth are transformed into a wide range of sizes, designs, and shapes, with myriad tight knots of cloth, rope and string meticulously formed into intriguing and beautiful forms.
Curator Mr. Henry Skerritt, of the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection at the University of Virginia, stated that this exhibit, along with several others that will follow at the Australian Embassy, is an example of people preserving their culture and expressing it with intriguing and amazing pieces of art made with natural earthly materials. In this way, they are able to share their culture with the world.
Gapu Murnuk is celebrated in Yolngo ceremonies as a source of abundance and for representing the interconnected relationship between Yirritja and Dehuwa, the two complementary categories that structure every element in our Universe. It also serves to keep the Yolngo people strong and tightly bound together, like a net.
AAFSW also serves as a strong and reliable net holding the Foreign Service community together. Many thanks and much appreciation for Sheila’s endless lineup of great programs that take your breath away and leave the heart and soul illuminated with beauty; also many, many thanks to AAFSW’s “Honey Bee” Barbara Reioux, who displays excellence and professionalism in everything she does.
AAFSW Assistant Treasurer