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Burra Map

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

While working on the conceptual design story for Burra Learning Place at the Australian Museum, I drew this map based not only on the lifecycle of an Eel, but also the many water systems these amazing animals move through and call home. Sometimes I find it frustrating when people consider art like this to be childish or poorly developed, because it shows how little appreciation and understanding so many people have for the complexity of Indigenous knowledge systems and for different ways of knowing, doing and being in the world.

Indigenous art is never 'just art'. It is knowledge. While not explicitly a traditionally cultural piece of art, my Burra map is an important way of knowing and expressing my Indigenous knowledge. We could have drawn an architectural map or a digital artistic design - after all, that's the convention. Instead, given that we were creating an education space based on Indigenous ways of knowing and doing, I drew it by hand and took it around to Indigenous Elders to share the story with them, get their feedback, and incorporate what they wanted to share.

What I love about my Burra map is that through the story of just one animal, we get to meet so many others. We move through three different kinds of water over a 20-50 year lifespan that includes a multi-year migration across the Ocean and a generational connection to home and place. The Burra map shows how having a dedicated relationship with one being inevitably draws you into relationship with other beings and places. And in a very simple way, all of this demonstrates the significance of Aboriginal art as a means of communicating not only complex knowledge like maps and science, but also the core of our knowledge systems - kinship, connection, and meaningful relationships with Country.

*Artworks and images of artworks belong to Sara Kian-Judge 2022.

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