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Songlines: The Power and Promise by Neale & Kelly

$25.00 inc. GST

Songlines are an archive for powerful knowledges that ensured Australia’s many Indigenous cultures flourished for over 60,000 years. Much more than a navigational path in the cartographic sense, these vast and robust stores of information are encoded through song, story, dance, art and ceremony, rather than simply recorded in writing.

Weaving deeply personal storytelling with extensive research on mnemonics, Songlines: The Power and Promise offers unique insights into Indigenous traditional knowledges, how they apply today and how they could help all peoples thrive into the future. This book invites readers to understand a remarkable way for storing knowledge in memory by adapting song, art, and most importantly, Country, into their lives.


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Margo Neale is the Head of the National Museum of Australia’s Indigenous Knowledges Curatorial Centre and an Adjunct Professor of the Australian National University’s Centre for Indigenous History.

Lynne Kelly is a science writer whose field of research is the memory methods used by those who depended on their memories for knowledge.

Songlines: The Power and Promise has a blend of Indigenous and non-Indigenous voices. It offers what Margo Neale calls ‘the third archive’. Aboriginal people use songlines to store their knowledge, while Western cultures use writing and technology. Aboriginal people now use a third archive – a combination of the two.

The authors believe that the third archive offers a promise of a better way for everyone to store, maintain and share knowledge while gaining a much deeper relationship with it.

Published by  Thames & Hudson Australia Pty Ltd, 2020. 216 pages, Paperback

About the First Knowledges series:

The First Knowledges series offers an introduction to Indigenous knowledges in vital areas and their application to the present day and the future. Exploring practices such as architecture and design, land management, medicine, astronomy and innovation, this six-book series brings together two very different ways of understanding the natural world: one ancient, the other modern. The first book focuses on Songlines.

The First Knowledges books are co-authored by Indigenous and non-Indigenous writers; the series is edited by Margo Neale, senior Indigenous curator at the National Museum of Australia.