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InsightThe Netherlands

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima opened the “Mapping Australia: Country to Cartography” exhibition

Last Monday King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands opened the exhibition “Mapping Australia: Country to Cartography” in the Aboriginal Art Museum (AAMU) in Utrecht. The Royal Couple visited the exhibition in preparation for the state visit to Australia and New Zealand that  will take place in late October and early November.

Exactly 400 years ago, Dutchman Dirk Hartog landed his ship De Eendracht on the West coast of Australia and became the first European known to set foot on Western Australian soil. To commemorate this historic event, the AAMU Museum of contemporary Aboriginal art in Utrecht, in collaboration with the Australian Embassy in the Netherlands, will present a unique exhibition entitled Mapping Australia: Country to Cartography. This exhibition will bring together different worlds, eras and viewpoints – the way European explorers mapped Australia, and the paintings of Australian Indigenous artists of this continent, which map the land and depict the deep connection of the Aboriginal population with it.

Mapping Australia: Country to Cartography will explore the different representations of Australia. Alongside the VOC’s historical maps of Australia’s coast, drawn by Dutch cartographers in the 17th and 18th centuries, are striking depictions of the country in contemporary art works of Aboriginal artists that are derived from thousands of years of traditions.

Aboriginal culture is the oldest living culture on earth, going back no less than 50,000 years. The Aboriginal people’s strong spiritual connection with the land and their vast knowledge of it are reflected in their art, from rock paintings, the oldest of which date from 20,000 years ago, to contemporary works. The intimate pictures depict important sites in the landscape through symbols and patterns, allowing them to be read as detailed maps. The impressive canvases in this exhibition that show an abundant palette of colours come from the desert areas of Central and Western Australia. Works can be seen by artists including Willy Tjungurrayi, Johnny Yungut Tjupurrula, Naata Nungarrayi and Cowboy Louie Pwerle, each with their specific and distinctive style.

The ten prints of the Duyfken portfolio will also be on display in the exhibition. This portfolio, with exquisite prints by ten Aboriginal artists, depicts the arrival of the first European ship the Duyfken on the north-east coast of Australia. The portfolio was received in 2006 by (then) Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima, who donated it to the AAMU.