The Belau National Museum (BNM) is showcasing a selection of prints from Australia’s great bark artists, whose paintings draw from Aboriginal artwork traditions.

The opening ceremony for the art exhibition took place at BNM on Wednesday evening, August 26. It was, according to the Australian Embassy, the “first Australian Aboriginal exhibition in Palau”.

The traveling “Old Masters” exhibition debuted in 2013 at the National Museum of Australia, and has since been touring internationally, with its latest displays in China and Taiwan.

The bark paintings tell stories from ancestral lore of the indigenous Aboriginal people. The artists come from Arnhem Land in northern Australia, and painted on eucalyptus bark with paint made from yellow ochres, charcoal, and white clay.

The ten prints on display at the museum depict Aboriginal legends such as mimih (spirit) hunting of ancestral kangaroos, a totemic crocodile creating Liverpool River, and spirits dancing at a Rirratjingu mortuary ceremony.

At the opening ceremony, Australian Ambassador Richelle Turner praised the artists and their clans for agreeing to share their traditional heritage with the rest of the world.

“These artists have carried out one of the oldest continuing traditions of art into the modern era, and my country is so much richer for it,” she said.

Minister for Community and Cultural Affairs BaklaiTemengil-Chilton acknowledged the friendship between Palau and Australia, which, she said, is strengthened by common interests such as sports, education, and gender equality. She drew parallels between the Aboriginal display and the Palauan petroglyphs, bai artwork, and storyboards.

“It is artwork that brings people from all over the world to share what we value in community and in our lives, and to understand cultural diversity and our similarities,” she said.   

The prints remain on display at the BNM, and eventually may be showcased in the banks of Palau, according to Ambassador Turner. 

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