There were some beautiful snow flurries at altitude au Pays du Mont-Blanc yesterday, but it was a rainy Sunday in the Arve Valley, so the MBFF team decided to head to the MEG (Musée d’Ethnographie de Genève) in Geneva to see the current temporary exhibition: «L’effet boomerang. Les arts aborigènes d’Australie» . . . what a beautiful and thought-provoking exhibition!
The MEG never fails to amaze us with its aesthetic and informative exhibitions, and the rich programme of workshops and visits for children and families just adds to our enjoyment on every visit.
«L’Effet Boomerang: les art aborigènes d’Australie»
This is how the MEG describes its current exhibition, which will run until 7th January 2018: “White walls, neon writing, clean lines: the MEG’s new exhibition welcomes its visitors in a space evocative of a contemporary art gallery. Here the MEG unveils one of its finest collections and reveals the wealth of indigenous Australia’s cultural heritage. Visiting this exhibition, we understand how the attempts to suppress Aboriginal culture since the colonisation in the 18th century have ended up having the opposite of their desired result.”
Within the exhibition, visitors will see everyday objects and weapons (boomerangs, spears, shields), works of art displaying some of the Aboriginal mythological tales and totemic animals on medium such as tree bark, and modern art focusing on the history and culture of Australia’s indigenous inhabitants.
The “boomerang effect” mentioned in the title of the exhibition alludes to the strengthening of Aboriginal identity and the creative outpouring that has resulted from the centuries of suppression and destruction of its culture.
See here for more information about the exhibition.
Part of the current exhibition at the MEG is a beautiful display of the «Ghostnet Art» of Erub Island: a whale, a sea turtle, a shark and more marine creatures made from recycled ghost nets are hanging like a giant mobile from the ceiling.
Where is Erub Island? Erub Island is in the Torres Strait, a body of water that flows between Papua New Guinea (to the north) and Cape York, Australia (to the south), linking the Coral Sea with the Arafura Sea; the Torres Strait is comprised of 200 islands (22 are inhabited), and is home to one of Australia’s indigenous groups, the Torres Strait Islanders.
What are ghost nets? Ghost nets are commercial fishing nets that have been abandoned or lost at sea; they are able to drift far from where they were left, driven along by ocean currents. The seas to the north-east of Australia have long attracted fisherfolk – from far and wide – with fishing nets huge in length (they can span up to 40km!). Fishing nets of these dimensions are illegal, and so they are often discarded when the authorities approach; they are also left behind when they are damaged, as to repair them is difficult, costly, and timely. The fishing nets often accumulate between the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Torres Strait Islands, along with huge carpets of plastic waste. Once discarded, the ghost nets go on to damage the coral, and marine animals become entangled; many animals, included endangered turtles and sharks, become trapped . . . Some of these trapped animals have huge totemic value to the island people; they are the protagonists in their founding myths. GhostNets Australia was born of this ecological and human catastrophe: an association of researchers and local coastguards (and later artists) founded in 2004, this group works together to locate and remove the ghost nets, to rescue the animals caught in them, and to spread the word globally of the damage caused by ghost nets.
«Ghostnet Art» – is the art conceived from recycling the discarded ghost nets, which are weaved to form sculptures. The Torres Strait inhabitants had used ghost nets in both a utilitarian and artistic capacity, long before they were crafted into marine animal sculptures: for veranda screens (adorned with shells, glass and bits of plastic found in the water), as fencing, as bags for food storage . . . Artists like Jimmy Kenny Thaiday, from Erub Arts Torres Strait, have brought a modern touch to the use of ghost nets, by using the local art of weaving to create sculptures of the marine animals trapped within the discarded fishing nets; and, through the artwork, comes a strong and clear ecological message. «Ghostnet Art» at the MEG is a collaboration of artist Jimmy Kenny Thaiday and artistic director Lynette Griffiths from Erub Arts Torres Strait, with the support of Parisian gallery owner, Stéphane Jacobs (Arts d’Australie Stéphane Jacobs), who has been at the forefront of bringing this unique art form to Europe and beyond. For more information about the global art installations of ghost nets past, present and future, see this informative article by Stéphane Jacobs in the Bourgogne Tribal News.
A family visit to «L’Effet Boomerang: les art aborigènes d’Australie»
We visited this exhibition at the MEG on the first Sunday of November, which meant that the exhibition was FREE to visit . . . our boys headed off into the exhibition armed with a special children’s booklet, much to their delight (and I found my eldest making himself a paper boomerang, as outlined in the booklet, this morning!):
We were also able to enjoy two activities organised for children/families: the guided visit of the «Ghostnet Art» exhibit and the «Ghostnet Art» group activity. For this activity, we worked together with Jimmy Kenny Thaiday and Lynette Griffiths of Erub Arts Torres Strait, as well as with other staff members of the MEG, to create a barracuda ghost net sculpture. I personally love these group activities, which bring together people from different cultures and generations to create a communal work of art; this surely mirrors the communities at work in the Torres Strait. Together, we wound and sewed pieces of discarded ghost nets together into snail forms, to add to the communal artwork; Jimmy and Lynette then added each new snail addition to the barracuda sculpture, as people chatted with them and children came and asked questions!
You can be a part of this fantastic group project again on the 3rd December . . . and then the barracuda will be heading back to the Erub Island community upon completion!
MEG workshops for children and families – for more information about upcoming activities, music, dance, storytelling and creative workshops on offer for children and families, see the MEG’s general programme or Programme for Jeune & Famille;
Opening hours of the MEG:
Tuesday to Sunday: 11h to 18h;
CLOSED on Mondays, 25th December and 1st January;
The temporary exhibition «L’Effet Boomerang: les art aborigènes d’Australie» will run until 7th January 2018.
For more information about the MEG, see a previous post from MBFF.
Adults: 9 CHF;
Under 18s: FREE;
*FREE: first Sunday of the month*
Boulevard Carl-Vogt 65-67
Tel: +41 (0)22 418 45 50
Parking: Parking de Plainpalais underground car park, or free parking on adjacent streets at the weekend.
Getting there: see here
*CONGRATULATIONS to the MEG for winning the prestigious award European Museum of the Year 2017! Very well deserved!*