Harvesting Traditional Knowledge is a two-way learning process that tells us about Indigenous and non-Indigenous approaches to the conservation of cultural materials. Many national museums and galleries have extensive collections of Australian Aboriginal cultural objects. Often, these historical objects are fragile and require conservation treatment to make sure they are kept in good condition. At present, there are not many opportunities for remote Indigenous artists, arts workers and conservators working in cultural institutions to share their knowledge of different approaches on how some of these cultural objects are made and looked after. The Harvesting Traditional Knowledge project hopes to create an opportunity for two-way learning by bringing together Indigenous traditional knowledge masters, conservators from Australian cultural institutions and other Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences to share different approaches to materials conservation.
ANKAAA is the Association of Northern, Kimberley & Arnhem Aboriginal Artists based in Darwin, who is delivering the project with key partners. These are Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre (Yirrkala, North-East Arnhem Land), The Mulka Project, an award-winning Indigenous media company, and The University of Melbourne Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation (CCMC). The project entails two workshops of two and a half days each at Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre in Yirrkala in May 2013 and at Mowanjum Art Centre in Derby in Western Australia in September 2013, as well as two mini-workshops to be held at ANKAAA’s annual general meetings. The Mulka Project will also produce a documentary about the workshops with a view to engaging wider audiences. Podcasts and booklets about each workshop will be available.
There are amazing custodians of this traditional knowledge who are alive and well in the very contemporary world who can be rung up at any time. I think there still is a great sense of divide between the mainstream Australia and remote traditional Australia, as if they’re inhabiting completely different universes. Christina Davidson, CEO of ANKAAA
The initiative is an unprecedented opportunity of national significance for Indigenous artists, arts workers, materials science masters and conservators to collaborate in a two-way learning exchange in Australia’s remote Top End and Kimberley regions. The project’s innovative methodology generates cross-cultural (and cross-paradigm) understanding that enables advancements in conservation of Australia’s Indigenous collections and their inherent traditional knowledge base. New communication channels, supported by the project’s wider new-media based engagement strategy, address the need for greater understanding of traditional knowledge and cultural heritage as something of inestimable value within our global knowledge base.
The Harvesting Traditional Knowledge project forms part of the Inspiring Australia initiative and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. Inspiring Australia is a national strategy for the engagement of the sciences and its many impacts on society. ANKAAA, as the peak advocacy and support agency for Aboriginal artists and art centres located in the Top End, also receives funding from the Northern Territory Government for the delivery of its programs and services.