Aboriginal art debuts in Greece

An exhibition focusing on the art of indigenous Australians opened recently at the New Building of the Benaki Museum, situated on Pireos Street. At the new Benaki wing, the new exhibition joins the «Periplous» photography exhibition and the «Ptychoseis – Folds & Pleats» exhibition – all three shows will remain on display throughout the summer. The «Australia: Indigenous Australia Now» exhibition is jointly organized by the Cultural Olympiad, the Powerhouse Museum and the Museum Victoria, and is the first exhibition of its kind to be organized in Greece. The show also has an element of exchange, since Greece had organized an exhibition of antiquities during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Featuring the art of the Aboriginal peoples, it aims to highlight one of the oldest existing civilizations in the world. At the exhibition’s opening on July 1, events also included music and dance by an Aboriginal dance group, coupled with a performance by singer Emma Donovan. The exhibition, which will run to August 31, includes 250 items – including paintings, sculptures and other objects – on loan from Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum and Melbourne’s Museum Victoria. It also features objects from Sydney’s Maritime Museum and a number of pieces on loan from private collections. The curators, who are Aborigines, chose not to focus solely on the past, but to also present contemporary artwork in order to stress the continuity in a civilization that has already been in existence for thousands of years. At the same time, the exhibition’s contemporary items demonstrate the Aboriginal population’s struggle to gain equal rights with the European colonists; it shows the indigenous peoples’ efforts to become part of society and to come to terms with their identity, without feeling like second-class citizens. One of the most moving exhibits on display is the torch which Aborigine Olympic medal-winner Kathy Freeman used to light the altar at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics, a special moment for a significant part of the Australian population (350,000). Visitors have the opportunity to see striking baskets, textiles, objects of daily use, carved fruit from trees and many other interesting items. The exhibition is divided into six thematic units on the population’s mentality, life in the countryside, social conflicts, family and cultural rebirth and revival. Benaki Museum, New Wing, 138 Pireos Street. The exhibition runs to August 31.