Recently I visited the extraordinary exhibition “Songlines:Tracking the Stories of the Seven Sisters” at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. Its a timely yet ancient story of journey, power, trauma and transformation.
The Indigenous peoples of Australia used songlines to find their way through the different tribal lands which make up the continent. As they entered each new area, stories were told, songs sung and dances made to honour the creation beings of the dreaming.
The songline of the Seven Sisters,like all good myths, is told and retold in various forms,with additions and omissions- vibrantly, dynamically, as it crosses Australia. There are amazing parallels to the ancient Grerk myth of the seven sisters or Pleiades.
The basic fabric of the tale evolves around seven sisters who travel across the land and are pursued by a lustful shapeshifting sorcerer who takes the form of a snake.
In different areas, individual sisters’ stories dominate and we learn about each sister’s makeup-their gifts, powers and personality. Yet they all share power and commit to the sacred task of journey.
They are united in their sacred purpose of sovereignty and authenticity when they tell that wiley old snake straight to his face- or tongue:
“Well, we never came for you, we are our own selves”
Still he pursues them, turning into various forms, always warching and trying to trap them.
The exhibition is superbly crafted to engage body, mind and spirit as you find yourself winding through the various stages of the story as captured in dynamic expression by artists across Australia.
The story finishes on a transformative note;the sisters trap and kill the sorcerer in his snake form and eat him by the fire . But his flesh is toxic and it poisons and kills them. Their spirits fly up to the sky where they become the Pleiades, the celestial seven sisters. I was powerfully moved by this magnificent exhibition which tells a tale as ancient as the earth herself, yet as relevant to the lives of all modern women.