Public Program

An Atlas of Indigenous Australia: Professors Howard and Frances Morphy with Curator of Collections Paul R. Davis on Mapping Culture and Language

In conjunction with the exhibition Mapa Wiya (Your Map’s not Needed): Australian Aboriginal Art from the Fondation Opale, distinguished anthropologists Howard and Frances Morphy will discuss mapping in the Indigenous Australian context from two perspectives: mapping as a way of communicating the diversity of Aboriginal culture and history to a general audience, and understanding aspects of Australian Aboriginal art as forms of mapping.

Moderated by Curator of Collections Paul R. Davis, the program highlights the recent publication of the revised, second edition of the award-winning Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia edited by Bill Arthur and Frances Morphy. Exploring the landscapes of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives, from over 60,000 years ago to the present time, the updated edition is replete with maps supplemented by explanatory text, numerous diagrams, photographs and illustrations, including Indigenous artworks. The Morphys will focus on two of the Atlas chapters – on art and on the Indigenous representations of place and space – and will draw on works in Mapa Wiya to illustrate their argument.

Howard Morphy is the former chair in Anthropology at the University College London and a founding Director of the Research School of Humanities and the Arts at the Australian National University. He has published extensively in the fields of visual anthropology and art history and curated several exhibitions. He is currently working on a number of projects that involve close partnerships with museums and Yolngu community organizations, particularly Buku Larrngay Mulka Art Centre in Yirrkala. With Frances Morphy he helped prepare the Blue Mud Bay Native Title Claim, which as a result of the 2008 High Court judgement recognized Indigenous ownership of the waters over the intertidal zone under the Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act.

Frances Morphy is honorary Associate Professor at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University. With Bill Arthur, she is the co-editor of the Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia, and has authored and edited numerous other publications. Her research interests have encompassed linguistics, anthropology and anthropological demography in a variety of Australian settings, most particularly in north-east Arnhem Land where she has worked with Yolngu people since the 1970s.