It is a rare occurrence when colleagues unite and decide to bring students to an art gallery. Equally uncommon is the sight of the National Art Gallery being overrun by a large group of students. One of the most notable events that took place at NAG, KL, in the year 2022 was the Australian ‘Walking through a Songline‘ digital immersive design exhibition. This exhibition was a celebration of Australian Indigenous arts, culture, and creativity, and left a lasting impact on all who experienced it.
Walking through a Songline is referred to as a pop-up digital experience based on the indigenous arts and culture and it brings to life the Aboriginal story of the Seven Sisters – seven sisters who represented the constellation starts, Pleiades. As such, through the unique blend of captivating visuals and mesmerising sounds, each one of its visitors is transported into the illuminated world of narrative storytelling.
For History of Art and Design with the Certificate in Design students, it was an exploration into the traditional forms of Aboriginal art and how art can be transformative into a different form of storytelling while preserving in the heritage symbolisms and cultural nature of the Australian Aboriginals. Therefore, as part of their discovery and explorations, the students were expected to creatively design and present in a print design format – brochure, mini handbook, flyer or etc. As such, it allowed students to also create a deep appreciation for diverse cultures and arts and in turn for me as an educator, a chance to witness their ability to synthesize their findings into print design format efficiently and creatively.
Nonetheless, as we are already at the National Art Gallery KL, it would be a loss not to spend a little extra time observing and indulging in some of the masterpieces by our very own Malaysian artists. These curated masterpieces classified as stated on the National Art Gallery’s official website are the National Permanent Collection Exhibition titled Nusa – derived from the Malay word that translated means motherland or homeland in English. Each piece presented responds to some of the well-known narratives of historical, mythological context in the identity of Southeast Asia.
Adding on, it was a pleasure to indulge in some of the other galleries and, in particular, one hall exhibiting artifacts and maps that narrated some historical origins of the famed state (and my hometown), Malacca. It was an engaging experience as there was a projection mapping, recounting one of the historic travels by ship by Ferdinand Magellan. Looking around, it was indeed an exploration of diverse narratives to pique one’s interest not in the fields of arts but to discover something old in the modern world.
Overall, through the immersive displays and captivating narratives, this trip was definitely an experience that reaffirms the necessity to instill outside-classroom experiences to merge theory and practice, and, ultimately train students to be well-rounded Designers who are both culturally sensitive and creatively empowered.