Posted by: The ocean update | May 24, 2018

SA Maritime Museum unveils woven whale sculpture inspired by French explorer (Australia)

The Kondoli sculpture is named after a man in a Dreaming story who became a whale. (ABC News : Karl Saville)

May 24 th, 2018 (Isadora Bogle). A whale sculpture woven from rushes is the culmination of a cultural exchange between a French museum and the South Australian Ngarrindjeri people.

The four-metre-long sculpture Kondoli, woven by Ngarrindjeri elder Aunty Ellen Trevorrow and her family from rushes from the Coorong and Lower Lakes, was unveiled at the South Australian Maritime Museum on Thursday.

It was made using weaving and netmaking skills passed down through the generations.

Ms Trevorrow was taught basket-weaving 37 years ago.

“This project here — the whale — is one of the biggest I’ve done, that I’ve worked towards,” she said.

“Being a part of it with our children and with our friends, it brings people together.

Connection with early explorer

It was inspired by the expedition of French navigator Nicholas Baudin, who charted the Australian coastline and the territories of the Ngarrindjeri people between 1801 and 1803.

Curator Adam Paterson said the position of the whale alongside a ship in the museum had struck a chord with people, including the artists.

“The French explorers were viewing the whales that they saw from the deck of the ship and recording that in their journals,” he said.

“The way that we positioned the whale, it looks as if it was swimming alongside the ship inside the museum.”

The Museum of Natural History in Le Havre, France, holds a rich collection of scientific artworks created on Baudin’s voyage.

That institution forged a cultural exchange with the Ngarrindjeri which culminated in the Kondoli project.

Kondoli is seen to symbolise the relationship between the Ngarrindjeri and the French and there are plans for the whale to be exhibited in France.

Kondoli has been installed as part of the Maritime Museum’s latest exhibition “Leviathan: An Astonishing History of Whales”.

Dr Paterson said it was exciting for the museum to tell the story of Kondoli and the relationship between Ngarrindjeri, South Australia and France.

“It’s one of a few projects that the museum’s been working on over the last few years — to tell more Aboriginal stories in the South Australian Maritime Museum,” he said.

“That’s something that we haven’t done a lot of in the past.”

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