Author Archives: Melanie Pitkin

Jewellery and adornment from the Pacific, part 1: Fijian pig’s tusk

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Boar's tusk, Fiji, c.1890, 92/177-1. Collection: Powerhouse Museum.

Pig’s tusk, Fiji, c.1890, 92/177-1. Collection: Powerhouse Museum.

Since the late 19th century, the Museum has collected a select and representative range of Pacific material culture – namely, body ornament, clubs, implements of daily use, textiles and dress – from the island regions of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. In the early days, the majority of these objects were collected via missionaries, while more recently they have been purchased at auction or generously gifted to the Museum from private collectors.

In the development of the exhibition A fine possession: jewellery and identity, I have had the privilege and pleasure to re-awaken the stories of many of the Pacific objects in our collection. In this series of posts, I wish to highlight a number of these – especially those being displayed in the exhibition – starting with one of our striking Fijian pig’s tusks.

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Powerhouse Museum Pop-UP @ Haldon Street Festival, Lakemba

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Curator, Glynis Jones, in the Museum's Pop-UP stall in Lakemba

Curator, Glynis Jones, in the Museum’s Pop-UP stall in Lakemba

On Saturday 24th August, the Powerhouse Museum ‘popped-up’ with a small object display and promotional stall at the Haldon Street Festival in Lakemba. Attended by more than 20,000 people, predominantly from the local Canterbury Council area, the festival was a fantastic opportunity for the Museum to bring some of its collection to the people – in particular, objects which not only help to promote a major upcoming exhibition opening at the Museum in 2014, but which have a special relevance and connection to some of the audiences we’re visiting.  Continue reading

Refugee Week 2013 – What’s the big deal?

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Welcome to Villawood Immigration Detention Centre © Elias Attia, 2013.

Welcome to Villawood Immigration Detention Centre © Elias Attia, 2013.

Refugee Week (Sunday 16 June – Saturday 22nd June, 2013) is “Australia’s peak annual activity to raise awareness about the issues affecting refugees and celebrate the positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society” (Refugee Week official website). In this blog post, we have invited Elias Attia to share with us his personal experiences working with refugee communities, specifically through his involvement with a charity organisation, SalamCare, which is closely affiliated with the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in western Sydney.

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Archaeology Week – Excavating an ancient Egyptian cemetery: pondering the ethics of working with human remains

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Excavating the Wadi Mouth site at the South Tombs Cemetery © Melanie Pitkin.

Excavating the Wadi Mouth site at the South Tombs Cemetery © Melanie Pitkin.

I’ve recently returned from the 2013 Spring Season excavations at the South Tombs Cemetery in Tell el-Amarna, Middle Egypt. Tell el-Amarna, or more simply Amarna, is the ancient Egyptian city built by the ‘heretic’ King Akhenaten, husband of Queen Nefertiti, in c. 1350 BC. Occupied for less than 20 years, Amarna is where Akhenaten broke with 2000 years of tradition to “pursue his vision of a society dedicated to the cult of only one god, the power of the sun – the Aten” (Amarna Project). Continue reading

How to make a stained glass window, Handel-style

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Studio of Philip Handel

Studio of Philip Handel, 2012. Photography © Powerhouse Museum, all rights reserved.

Picture a large stained glass window inside a cathedral. You see a variety of colours – perhaps a contrast of red and blue, long slivers of yellow, or a striking sea of white. A pattern emerges, changing your interpretation of the window. At first you notice a figure in the centre of the window, which you perceive to be the image of Christ. Then more figures emerge, so you begin to piece together a narrative, reading the window as you would a novel. Now you are lost in the story, in the intricacies of light and colour, in private thought and reverie.

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Ramadan, Eid prayers and the Museum

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Eid prayers at Lakemba Mosque, 2011. Photography © Powerhouse Museum, all rights reserved.

Eid prayers at Lakemba Mosque, 2011. Photography © Powerhouse Museum, all rights reserved.

From the end of this week until August 19 is Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. During this time, Muslims fast everyday from dawn to sunset with the purpose of cleansing their mind and body, practicing self-discipline and re-focusing their worshop on god. At the end of Ramadan, a large celebration takes place called Eid ul-Fitr, or simply Eid. Family and friends dress up in their most beautiful clothes to celebrate in prayer and good company. As reflected in the Faith, fashion, fusion exhibition, designers release new collections specifically for this occasion. “Ramadan is our busiest month”, says Hanadi Chehab and Howayda Moussa of Integrity Boutique. “People buy a new outfit for everyday of Eid [it goes for 3 days]…and we start designing for it months in advance”.

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Refugee Week, Seeking refuge in hope

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Asme Fahmi (far left) with her mother and sisters.

Asme Fahmi (far left) with her three sisters Zainab, Rabia and May.

During the course of developing the Faith, fashion, fusion: Muslim women’s style in Australia exhibition, we met Asme Fahmi. Asme, 31, is a Community Engagement Project Coordinator with the Community Relations Commission, a third year Shariah Law student at Daar Aisha Shariah College and a student of Islamic Studies at Charles Sturt University. In addition to this, Asme also serves in a number of important volunteer roles for MuslimVillage.com, Mission of Hope, Foundations for Tomorrow and the Deen Intensive Rihla Program. We invited Asme, who is of mixed Iraqi-Syrian parentage, to share with us her personal family refugee stories in this special post ‘Seeking refuge in hope’ as part of National Refugee Week 2012.

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Refugee Week, Visiting Villawood Detention Centre

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Widyan Al-Ubudy outside the Villawood Detention Centre.

Widyan Al-Ubudy outside the Villawood Detention Centre.

This is the second post we are privileged to share with you by guest writer, Widyan Al-Ubudy, for National Refugee Week. In this post, Widyan recounts her personal experiences as a volunteer at Sydney’s Villawood Detention Centre and the deep and moving impact it has had on her. To find out more about Widyan, see her earlier post here. Continue reading

Refugee Week, ‘No more running a mother and daughter story’

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Widyan Al-Ubudy and her mother at the opening of the Faith, fashion, fusion exhibition.

Widyan Al-Ubudy and her mother at the opening of the Faith, fashion, fusion exhibition.

To recognise National Refugee Week, we invited Widyan Al-Ubudy, an up-and-coming journalist and media personality to write a post for the Museum about her personal experiences with refugees. Widyan, 20, originally from Iraq, was born in a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia after her family escaped Saddam Hussein’s regime in the early 1990s. Continue reading