About Big Skies Collaboration
Celebrating millennia of astronomies on the inland plains, Big Skies is a creative collaboration between arts practitioners, astronomers and local communities to share stories about people’s relationships with the cosmos, especially as experienced from Wiradjuri country, in central western NSW.
The broader Big Skies Collaboration is a collection of projects using writing, dance, theatre, music, visual arts and digital installations to engage with people in rural and regional areas on the theme of astronomy. Working across an area stretching from Narrabri to the ACT – the 700 kilometre Array – a team of highly skilled creative practitioners will work with communities over a 2 year period (2017 – 18) in Phase 1. Phase 2 will be the culmination of the work and will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in 2019. Big Skies Collaboration is ambitious in its scope, but the different strands allow for the work to nevertheless be manageable and achievable.
There are a number of strands operating throughout the collaboration. The first two componets, with funding received by Arts OutWest from the Regional Arts Fund, were:
- Art of Wiradjuri Constellations
The ‘Skywriters and art of Wiradjuri constellations’ projects, funded over two years (2017-2018) through the federal government’s Regional Arts Fund, use writing and visual arts in partnership with major observatories and universities as well as partnerships with writing groups and libraries, Cementa Festival, and local Wiradjuri community leaders.
Art of Wiradjuri Constellations
In 2016 Cultural astronomer Trevor Leaman commissioned Wiradjuri artist Scott ‘Sauce’ Towney, from Peak Hill, to create a set of graphic representations of his people’s star constellations, as part of Trevor’s own Wiradjuri Cultural Astronomy Project. The commission was supported by Arts OutWest through funding from the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund, and by Local Land Services Central Tablelands, and is one element of the larger, regional Big Skies Collaboration.
Trevor Leaman has developed a Wiradjuri skylore package using Stellarium’s free digital planetarium program which lets you see the night sky from any location on Earth, and at any time in history.
Some of Wiradjuri artist Scott ‘Sauce’ Towney’s constellation graphics were then installed on Stellarium. These were exhibited at the Cementa Festival of Contemporary Art in Kandos, in April 2017, with a film by another Big Skies Collaborator Kate Richards, projected onto the inside of a large, walk in dome. This element of the project has also been supported by Local Land Services.
The drawings were also exhibited at Skyfest at Parkes in 2018.
Wiradjuri Murriyang means Wiradjuri Sky World. This is where Baiame, the great creator lives. Scott has created images based on his own cultural interpretation of the Wiradjuri constellations as described in archival narratives researched by Trevor Leaman. Trevor has placed the constellation artworks in the Murriyang in relation to these narratives. Wiradjuri patterns and mark-making in the work are contemporary. Scott doesn’t copy the original marks on trees because they are linked to ceremony. He uses these traditional marks as a guide to his contemporary graphic work
- Mulayndynang, or The Seven Sisters, the star cluster also known as the Pleiades
- Biame, The Great Creator, also known as Orion
- Wawi, The Rainbow Serpent, the formation also known as the Milky Way
- Gugurmin, The Celestial Emu, the dark space in the Milky Way
- Guggaa, The Tree Goanna, also known as Scorpius
- Guguburra, The Kookaburra, or Corona Australis
- Waagan, The Crow, or Canopus
- Mouyi, The Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, also known as The Southern Pointers, or Alpha and Beta Centauri, which guide our eyes to the constellation Crux, or Yarran-Du (The Southern Cross)
- Maliyan, The Wedge-Tailed Eagle, or the constellation Aquila, the Latin word for Eagle
- Maliyan Nngubaanbukarr, The Wife of Maliyan, or the constellation Lyra
- Maliyan Wollai, The Eagles’ Nest, or Corona Borealis
- Yarran-Do, the Yarran Tree, or the Southern Cross
Sauce’s images are also installed on Stellarium, a free planetarium program people can download to their home computers or other devices. More details on accessing Stellarium here >>. They will also be used by Wiradjuri communities for educational purposes.
We would like to acknowledge all Wiradjuri Elders, both past and present, for their knowledge and wisdom through the ages, and for passing this knowledge on to future generations.
Scott ‘Sauce’ Towney’s representations of his people’s star constellations.
Location: Peak Hill, Parkes, Kandos and online via Stellarium
When: funded 2017-2018
Funded by: the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund, Local Land Services Central Tablelands
Big Skies Collaboration coordinated by: Merrill Findlay
Artworks commissioned by: Trevor Leaman
Artist: Scott ‘Sauce’ Towney
Wiradjuri Cultural Advisors: Larry Towney, David Towney, Dinawan Bill Allen, Gail Clark, Peter Ingram, James Ingram, Stan Grant (Snr)
Thank you also to: Western Sydney University Observatory team for loan of the dome. Cementa.
Photos: Main image Wiradjuri artist Scott Towney’s representation of Yarran-Do, the Yarran Tree, or the Southern Cross, for the Wiradjuri Astronomy Project. © Scott Towney 2017; gallery images are of the artworks installed in stellarium at Cementa. Photos Alex Wisser; Framed artworks displayed at Parkes, photos Arts OutWest.