Fragments of the Owl’s Egg at Land Marks

There’s been a slew of articles in the press lately about the Land Marks exhibition; in case you missed them, here are links to the articles from The Australian (February 7); The Age (February 8); The Age (February 10); and the National Indigenous Times (Issue 97).

At the NGV’s web page for the exhibition there’s a link to What’s On for this exhibition that includes dates for screenings of a new film by Kim McKenzie entitled Fragments of the Owl’s Egg. (Dates are March 9 and 18, and April 13, all at 12:30 PM.) I was fortunate to get a preview of this film at the ANU’s Centre for Cross-Cultural Research in August, and it’s a remarkable piece of work which should not be missed.

The Owl’s Egg of the title is a site called Wirlarrk Mukmuk in the western Arnhem Land sandstone plateau. Among people native to the region around Kabulwarnamyo, including the artist Lofty Bardayal Nadjamerrek, it is recalled as a site rich with rock art. But it is also extremely isolated on the plateau, and because of shifting population patterns, has not been visited in perhaps half a century. Lofty is one of the few people still alive who remembers the site, and the film is the story of a journey to rediscover it.

Filmmakers, archaeologists, helicopter pilots, and Western Kunwinjku people joined together in the search. Dreamtime stories and aerial surveys were combined to plot out geographical search coordinates in the effort to locate Wirlarrk Mukmuk, and the resulting film is the record of the expeditions in search of the Owl’s Egg.

The film is exquisitely photographed, both from the air and from land. Because the search was as much in aid of recovering the site for the Kunwinjku as for western scientific and artistic purposes, the narration of the film is entirely in language, with subtitles for those of us who speak English. The result is a mixture of adventure, anthropological investigation, historical reconstruction, and cultural recovery. If you are in Melbourne on one of the dates when it is being screened at the Ian Potter, make sure you set aside an hour to experience it.

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