Author(s): Katherine Aigner
From the ancient Etruscans and Romans, to the Renaissance masters of Michelangelo and Raphael, the Vatican Museums represent an aspect of the history of humanity through art. The Indigenous Australian collection is a little known and unexplored part of that story. Being amongst some of the earliest known documentations of Australian Indigenous cultures, the collection includes the earliest extant set of Pukumani poles from Melville and Bathurst Islands, alongside more recent contributions of artworks and cultural objects, and presents materials that have not been exhibited before in Australia. The responsibility to culturally reconnect relevant contemporary Indigenous communities to their material heritage held in the museum has been realised and is documented in this catalogue, which includes a catalogue of objects and essays by Indigenous and non-Indigenous authors. During the process of community visits and consultations, images of the objects brought old and young people together, instigating intergenerational dialogue about the past. Now, in collaboration with communities, the Indigenous collection can be seen in this catalogue and is represented at the heart of the Vatican Museums where the objects have become cultural ambassadors inviting others to come and learn more about Australian Indigenous cultures.
Katherine Aigner started collaborating with the Vatican Ethnological Museum in 2009. Since then she has researched its indigenous collections and re-connected them with source communities around the world. This led her to collaborate on exhibitions at the Vatican Museums and abroad. She curated the permanent display of the Indigenous Australian collection at the Vatican Museums, inaugurated in 2012. Currently she is researching the Oceania and Africa collections of the Vatican Museums. Born in Richmond, Victoria, in 1947 Bruce Pascoe is a school teacher, deck hand, barman, farmer, Director of Commonwealth Australian Studies project, editor, publisher, and works in Indigenous language retrieval. He published and edited Australian Short Stories quarterly magazine for 16 years, and was joint winner (with David Foster) of Australian Literature Award (1999) and winner of the Radio National Short Story Competition (1998). Bruce's books include the short story collections Night Animals (1986) and Nightjar (2000); the novels Fox (1988), Ruby Eyed Coucal (1996), Ribcage (1999), Shark (1999), Earth (2001), and Ocean (2002); historical works CapeOtway: Coast of secrets (1997) and Convincing Ground (2007); and the childrens' book Foxies in a Firehose (2006). Bruce has been published by Penguin, McPhee Gribble, Transworld, Magabala Books, Bruce Sims Books, Aboriginal Studies Press and Seaglass. Bruce has produced a history text, Wathaurong: The people who said no, a language learning CD-ROM, film, and teachers' book and a Wathaurong dictionary for the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-op, Geelong, Victoria. He is currently working on retrieval and teaching of Wathaurong language of south western Victoria. Bruce is a member of Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative, Bunurong heritage, and is a Board member of Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages.