The life of Aboriginal people must have been difficult, with neither a map nor teleportation" is the thought that crossed my mind while I was visiting the exhibition "Warrane II : Sacred Tracks of the Gadigal" at the Sydney Customs House.
Warrane" is the term used by the Gadigal Aboriginals to name Sydney Cove. The exhibition is presented as an immersive simulation of the region before the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. For the occasion, the main hall of the Customs House has been redecorated with ferns, rocks and even a small Aboriginal camp, complete with its papercraft bonfire.
The simulation part is provided by 5 enormous computer monitors. A software enables the visitor to walk in a first-person-view modelling of Sydney, stripped of its modern buildings, through simple keyboard commands. Pictograms float around the simulation to get your attention to points of interest: animals, plants, landmarks, Gadigal camps, etc. Going near these places triggers a small video clip, during which a modern Gadigal actor explains the traditional relationship between Aboriginals and the observed element. The graphics are convincing and the freedom of movement is total. From the manufacture of a bark canoe to techniques for hunting wallabies, through rites of passage to adulthood: there is a lot to learn.
The exhibition is free and you won't need to be a computer wizard to enjoy yourself. If you are in a hurry, you can "jump" from one point of interest to another by using the map and it is even possible to display a transparent outlay of modern Sydney to help keep your bearings around the Harbour. It is great way for (big) kids to learn about Aboriginal culture while having fun.