This activity can also be used as an introductory activity to Aborginal culture, as it teaches pupils about variations in the Australian landscape, and links into other areas of Aborginal culture, such as Dreaming stories and dot paintings.
Songlines are maps of the land Aboriginal people live on. People sing as they walk, about the country they are passing through and the stories and their relationship to it. They are connected to Dreaming Stories and to the stories told in dot paintings.
Watch Colin Jones, lecturer in Aboriginal history and art, talk about what songlines are in this video clip (1:52):
Many songlines are transmitted orally from generation to generation through songs, stories and dances. This means that there is limited information to be found about them online. However, two television networks (Screen Australia and NITV) collaborated in 2016 in the project: Songlines on Screen.They made eight short films along songlines, filmed in different regions of Western, Northern and Central Australia. The aim of these films was to show Aboriginal people’s ongoing connection to land and culture as told through creation songs.
Songlines on Screen also included a webpage, with some information and a video clip from each of the films made. The task below is based on the information found there:
1. Print out a blank map of Australia. You can find one online (for example, http://www.map.net.au/outline-map ) Find the places mentioned in each of the films and mark them on the map. Make notes on what the song is about and what you can learn about the landscape and culture in each of the places.
2. Do they differ from Dreaming stories? How?
3. Why are songlines a good way to remember places and stories?
4. Can you think of examples in other countries and cultures of songs that are used to remember certain historical places or events: what is special about these songs?
5. Which modern songs do you think will be remembered in decades or even centuries to come? Why is that?
6. Aboriginal culture is holistic – how is the holistic nature of the knowledge systems reflected in songlines?
(Painting at the top: http://www.aboriginal art.com/desert_pages/papunya_24.html )