Aboriginal ingenuity on exhibition at Museum

05 Mar 2020

The skills, culture and adaptability of First Nations people will be showcased at Newcastle Museum when the improvisational genius of the famous Bush Mechanics is complemented by a display of locally made possum skin cloaks and weaving.

The hit ABC documentary series Bush Mechanics, which combined the mechanical resourcefulness of Central Australia’s Walpiri men with their humour and music, was a TV phenomenon in 2001.

Four episodes in which they replaced car parts with tree boughs and cleverly used other bush resources, such as mulga, spinifex and sand, as tools and spare parts, were watched by more than 3 million viewers.

An EH Holden they cut the roof off to use as a makeshift trailer, a Ford Fairlane adorned in a water-dreaming painting and a driver-simulator cobbled from random machinery and a computer monitor, feature among their handiwork in the Bush Mechanics exhibition from the National Motor Museum.

The old Holden lopped by the Bush Mechanics.
Specially commissioned art, displays showing their clever “nyurulypa” (good bush tricks) and an augmented reality app that explains the Ford Fairlane painting, feature among the exhibition’s interactive components.

“The City of Newcastle invests around $15 million in delivering cultural facilities in our city year in year out, and our Newcastle Museum plays a vital role in telling our stories and showcasing wonderful Australian talent like the Bush Mechanics,” Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

Joining the Bush Mechanics display, Cultural Resurgence will showcase woven and possum skin works created by local Aboriginal community groups, such as the Mindaribba Local Aboriginal lands council, the Awabakal Elders group and various school groups with both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students and their teachers with local organisation Speaking in Colour.

“In all of these programs cultural enrichment is paramount,” Managing Director of Speaking in Colour Cherie Johnson said“In all of these programs cultural enrichment is paramount.

“The diversity of individuals’ knowledge and abilities vary; however, we have found the hunger to learn and create is shared by all. Over the course of this program it is beautiful to watch the students become the teachers, sharing what they have learnt with their friends and family. We have witnessed generations share and work together on projects that many have not had the chance to do before.”

Walpiri-style driver simulator.

Newcastle Museum Director Julie Baird said she was excited to have the two exhibitions on display together.

“Bush Mechanics, with its desert mob Walpiri way of solving problems and the local Speaking in Colour weaving and possum skin cloaks created by both young and old, allows us to celebrate the culture and ingenuity of our First Nations people,” Ms Baird said.

Bush Mechanics and Cultural Resurgence are free at Newcastle Museum until 30 May.