Rainbow Snakes and Cosmological Landscapes: Indigenous Visions from Malaysia, Australia and the Amazon

Ivan Tacey (2014), Batek women at Kuala Set, July 2014.

  • The Levinsky Gallery, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth, PL4 8AA

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Rainbow snakes are perhaps the most emblematic figures of Australian Aboriginal myths. However, similar world-creating giant serpents associated with rainbows, floods, the underworld, women and shamans are found in the cosmologies of indigenous peoples across the world.

Drawing upon long-term ethnographic fieldwork carried out with the Batek – a hunter-gatherer group of Peninsular Malaysia – Dr Tacey will discuss the rainbow serpent in Batek creation myths, taboos, and cosmological landscapes. He will also look at similarities between Australian, Malaysian and Australian Aboriginal versions of this ubiquitous entity.

The talk will focus on the rainbow snake as an enforcer of laws and moral codes embedded in the landscape, and on how shamans interact with it and attempt to control its power to prevent catastrophes in their local environment and faraway places. Ivan concludes by discussing the ways indigenous peoples’ religions and lifeways have helped preserve extremely high levels of biodiversity for future generations, and why these landscapes should gain international legal protection.

Read the latest visitor information including COVID-19 measures

Date: Wednesday 23 February 2022
Time: 13:00–13:45
Venue: The Levinsky Gallery, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth
Ticket information: free admission

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Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters

21 October 2021 – 27 February 2022

The award-winning Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters exhibition has been entirely conceived and curated by a team of First Australians, led by Margo Neale, Senior Indigenous Curator at the National Museum of Australia and custodial elders from the Central and Western Deserts of Australia.

The exhibition features over 300 paintings and objects by more than 100 artists shown across two venues, The Levinsky Gallery and The Box. Songlines takes visitors on an epic journey that traverses three states, three deserts and some 500,000 square kilometres, travelling from west to east: to places in the deserts of the Martu, the Ngaanyatjarra and the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) peoples. Using the power of contemporary art, performance, song, photography and multimedia, the exhibition shares ancient stories from the world’s oldest continuing culture.

Find out more and book your place

Seven Sisters Songline 1994 by Josephine Mick, Ninuku Arts © the artist/Copyright Agency 2020. Image: National Museum of Australia

Seven Sisters Songline 1994 by Josephine Mick, Ninuku Arts © the artist/Copyright Agency 2020. Image: National Museum of Australia

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