Words & Photographs by Tanya Houghton
Songlines; ancient Aboriginal maps passed on through song, story or dance. When sung, they describe landmarks along a journey, enabling the user to navigate their way across vast distances of the Australian landscape. In doing so, they keep the sacred land alive.
I have always been in awe of the vast range of ancient landscapes within Australia and the comparisons between stories of the past and the present, the indigenous and the modern and the connections formed to those landscapes. It was upon learning about Aboriginal Songlines that the idea to take on a project going walkabout alone across the Australian landscape was affirmed.
Over the course of the summer, I set off to explore the deep-rooted connections of Australians’ to the landscape they call home. Weaving my way across the country, I spent five weeks working out of a make shift studio in the back of my car and spent my nights camping in a tent, in the country’s national parks.
Covering a total of 10,500 km, I collected scattered stories and imprinted memories strewn over the landscape. I gained a deeper understanding of the Country’s past and of the Aboriginals’ deep-rooted connection to the land that has been their home for thousands of years. What emerged were two conflicting devotions to the Landscape. That of the Aboriginals’ sacred connection and that of the newer generations commercialisation of space through modern land tourism. Despite the tenuous past of the nation, there is a shared love of the land, both past and present.
Giving no weight to any one persons, physical representations of individuals I encountered were removed. The stories that were shared are represented through the landscape in which they were created. The resulting body of work is a collection of landscapes and still-lifes, stories and natural interventions that explore human experience through listening to the language of the Australian landscape.
Songlines of the Here+Now, will be exhibited at The Argentea Gallery in Birmingham 13th September – 27th October 2018. To learn more about Tanya’s work, click here.