Wiradjuri Astronomy Project

December 2016: The Wiraduri Astronomy Project has received funding from Regional Arts NSW, through project partner Arts OutWest, to process Scott Towney’s  Wiradjuri constellation art for Stellarium and to exhibit it at Cementa2017 festival of contemporary art, 6-9 April 2017, in Kandos, NSW.

July 2017:  Scott Towney’s Wiradjuri Constellation Art, as commissioned for the Wiradjuri Astronomy Project, will be exhibited at the Skywriters’ Big Gig in the Coventry Room, Parkes Shire Council, on the weekend of 8-9 July 2017.

Exhibition catalogue and constellation guide [pdf 282KB]: Wiradjuri Murruyang,Scott Towney’s Constellation Art, SkywritersProject2017

Big Skies Collaborator and cultural astronomer Trevor Leaman is working with Wiradjuri communities in inland New South Wales to understand their traditional skylore and the scientific knowledge it encodes. He lives in Wiradjuri Country and is based at Orange, New South Wales.  Much of his research has been conducted through the University of NSW in Sydney, under the supervision of cultural astronomer Dr Duane Hamacher (Monash University) and ethnographer Professor Stephen Muecke (UNSW).

Trevor is especially interested in the seasonal, calendrical, meteorological, navigational and spiritual significance of the night sky for Wiradjuri people. His documentary research includes an analysis of the historic record for information about Wiradjuri astronomy and the ways people have traditionally incorporated this knowledge into seasonal hunting and food gathering practices, and their ceremonies and rituals. He has found, for example, that Wiradjuri people and their neighbours used astronomy to time important gatherings, some of which were only held every twenty years or so and were most likely timed to coincide with the conjunction of three planets. Traditional sky watchers would have needed a deep astronomical knowledge to predict such events in advance.

Wiradjuri descendant Russell Spencer conducts a traditional smoking ceremony to ritually cleanse cultural astronomers Trevor Leaman and Duane Hamacher and the rest of us near Seven Sisters Ridge, Yarrabandai, where our Big Skies Collaboration was launched. Winter Solstice, June 2015. Photo by Merrill Findlay.

Trevor is also doing his own astronomical observations to investigate the seasonal alignments of certain stars or constellations with particular landscape formations, including Seven Sisters Ridge near Yarrabandai, Bogolong Hill and the Weddin Mountains near Grenfell, Kengal near Wagga Wagga, and Merri Abba near Lake Cargelligo. See more on his recent work on our Facebook page.

Seven Sisters Ridge, for example, is associated with the ‘Seven Sisters’ of the Pleiades star cluster which features in songlines throughout Australia and around the world. This cluster’s heliacal rising in early June marks the beginning of our Southern winter and coincides with the start of the dingo breeding season in the central desert, and the northerly migration of whales along the east coast, for example. (Read an ABC report on Trevor Leaman and Duane Hamacher’s work at Ooldea a here>>)

Trevor sees his participation in the Big Skies Collaboration as an opportunity to give back to the communities he is working with, and to share his research in new and interesting ways. He is collaborating with Wiradjuri artist Scott ‘Sauce’ Towney, for example, to develop images of Wiradjuri constellations. Scott’s images have been exhibited at Cementa 2017, at the Skywriters Project‘s Big Gig in Parkes (where they remained on the walls for the Central West Astronomical Society’s Astro-Fest), and elsewhere. They will be exhibited again at the first Condo SkyFest in November 2018.

Top photo credits
A stone arrangement near the village of Alectown believed to be a Wiradjuri astronomical site. CSIRO’s Parkes Observatory is nearby. Photo by Merrill Findlay, 27 February 2016.

Page History
Page created 4 February 2016. Last updated 23 September 2018.

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