Guide Songlines

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Songlines Singing is an essential element in most Mardudjara ritual performances because the songline follows in most cases the direction of travel of the beings concerned and highlights cryptically their notable as well as mundane activities. Most songs, then, have a geographical as well as mythical referent, so by learning the songline men become familiar with literally thousands of sites even though they have never visited them; all become part of their cognitive map of the desert world.

In his book The Songlines , British novelist and travel writer Bruce Chatwin describes the songlines as:. Aboriginal Creation myths tell of the legendary totemic being who wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path - birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes - and so singing the world into existence.

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Indigenous Australian belief. For other uses, see Songlines disambiguation. London: Duncan Baird. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 July In Aboriginal culture these ancestral sacred stories are passed on as large song cycles. People might specialise in chapters or sections of a songline which tells the entire creation story that relates to a particular tract of land. People on neighbouring land will have the next chapters of what happened to the ancestors as they crossed over to their own part of the country.

In Aboriginal terms the kinship lineage of the ancestral people from that country, or the custodians, had control over that songline. It was their duty to uphold the obligations of passing the song on in perfect form to the next generation.

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In the initiation processes within Aboriginal culture each generation is taught the entire package of their culture over a series of stages of knowledge. Through these song cycles people gradually learn the entire cultural story of their people. A songline also defines a group of people in Aboriginal Australia. It defines the land that they live on. It defines the law that they live under.

It defines the ceremonies and the obligations that they have in respect of their country and the sites located on their country. Neighbouring language groups are connected because song cycles weave and criss-cross all over the country. They share beliefs in the ancestors and the laws that relate to them. People were able to interact with their neighbours in terms of their obligations along those songlines.

In some ways they also created the possibility of barter or exchange based on cultural knowledge between adjoining language groups. Songlines can be mapped. It requires major consultation between neighbouring groups because there were several hundred language groups across Australia when white people first arrived here.

Those language groups mostly define custodianship of songlines.

Many of these songlines criss-cross in the sense that they go east and west and they go north and south and they go diagonally and they backtrack according to the journeys of the ancestors. They create a kind of cultural network of stories that ties all of Aboriginal Australia together. Songlines underpin the whole Aboriginal culture. This is because the significant knowledge of culture that belongs to people comes from their participation in the songlines of their country.

Those same stories are the family stories and the clan stories that become part of what people can paint when they start painting.

The modern painting movement has been a reflection of songlines. It is a more approachable way for Europeans to appreciate Aboriginal culture.

Maada'ookii Songlines

Traditionally songlines were about language, song, dance and ceremony. Much of this was, and still is, secret sacred and therefore not visible to outsiders. At the same time, some of the significant parts of it were in the public domain. So when Aboriginal people started engaging in the contemporary art movement they were able to find ways to illustrate their history out of the songlines and put those stories into their paintings.

The resulting art has spiritual and cultural content, which engages people even when they don't understand the significance or the detail of the story behind it. A songline might contain a whole series of incidents and a whole series of knowledge areas that are connected. Most paintings focus on one site within a songline. A songline going across traditional country may have twenty or may have fifty very important sites for a language group to maintain and to carry out the appropriate cultural protocols.

The Aborigines who've walked for 40,000 years

Painters will often relate to the specific story that their family is custodian for. There is also an inherited skin name kinship structure that decides how things get passed down intergenerationally. A particular skin group along with a senior individual may be custodian for a particular site. The songlines are the invisible pathways that criss-cross Australia, tracks connecting communities and following ancient boundaries.

Along these lines, Aboriginals passed the songs which revealed the creation of the land and the secrets of its past.

In this magical account, Chatwin recalls his travels across the length and breadth of Australia seeking to find the truth about the songs and unravel the mysteries of their stories. Other books in this series. Brave New World Aldous Huxley. Add to basket. Slaughterhouse 5 Kurt Vonnegut. Catch Joseph Heller. Stoner John Williams. The Sense of an Ending Julian Barnes. Beloved Toni Morrison.

The Collector John Fowles. The Quiet American Graham Greene. To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee.

Aboriginal Songlines Helped Draw the Map in Australia – National Geographic Education Blog

In Praise of Shadows Jun'ichiro Tanizaki. Island Aldous Huxley. Catch 50th Anniversary Edition Joseph Heller. The Songlines Bruce Chatwin.

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