Museum launches iconic Arnhem Land sound and sensory exhibition

Yidaki: Didjeridu and the Sound of Australia reverberates in Canberra

The first major exploration of didjeridu, produced by the South Australian Museum in partnership with the National Museum of Australia, will go on display in Canberra for the final leg of its tour.

Yidaki: Didjeridu and the Sound of Australia was developed with the Yolngu people of North East Arnhem Land under the guidance of Djalu Gurruwiwi, a universally recognised authority on the musical and spiritual traditions of yidaki (didjeridu).

The exhibition features 20 key objects displayed in a stringy bark forest setting. They are brought to life by audio-visual experiences that illuminate the cultural, ecological and musical world of the Yolngu people.

Director of the National Museum, Dr Mathew Trinca, said it was wonderful to see the exhibition in Canberra after its tour to Japan and around Australia. ‘Yidaki – or didjeridu – is the iconic sound of Australia’s heritage and we are delighted to share this experience with our visitors,’ Dr Trinca said.

Professor John Carty, the South Australian Museum’s Head of Humanities and Yidaki curator, said the exhibition breaks most of the conventions of classical museum curation. ‘Rather than build an exhibition, we built a stringy bark forest, and in that forest you are led by Yolngu voices that guide you through their system of meaning, on their terms,’ said Professor Carty.

Margo Neale, Head of the National Museum’s Indigenous Knowledges Curatorial Centre said the exhibition explores the Indigenous voice in new ways.

‘Through this exhibition, Djalu Gurruwiwi and his family introduce you to yidaki, its power and meaning in Yolngu life. The exhibition explores the use of Indigenous voices in new ways with soundscapes offering different pathways into the Yolgnu world,’ said Ms Neale.

In film and audio installations, Djalu Gurruwiwi guides visitors through the exhibition. He invites them to explore the objects as they are surrounded by the sounds and stories of yidaki from Djalu, his son Larry Gurruwiwi and grandson Kevin Dhurrkay.

The exhibition also offers an unusual sensory experience. Standing on innovative musical platforms called thunderboards, visitors can feel the vibrations of the yidaki as they watch them being played.

Yidaki: Didjeridu and the Sound of Australia will be on show in the Temporary Gallery at the National Museum of Australia from Friday 25 June until Sunday 26 September 2021.

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