Rome’s Vatican Museums host rare Aboriginal art exhibition

Aboriginal artNo one can ever accuse the Vatican of acting impulsively. In 1925, over 300 artworks and relics were sent to Rome by Aboriginal Australians, for a papal show. Since that time, the items have been squirreled away, despite being one of the world’s finest collections of Aboriginal art and artifacts, according to a recent New York Times article.

Fortunately, these treasures are now on public display, thanks in part to Missionary Ethnological Museum curator Father Nicola Mapelli. Last summer, Mapelli flew to Australia and visited Aboriginal communities to request permission to display the collection. His objective was to “reconnect with a living culture, not to create a museum of dead objects.” His goal is accomplished in the exhibition, “Rituals of Life,” which is focused on northern and Western Australian art from the turn of the 20th century. Despite the fairly contemporary theme of the exhibition, Aboriginal culture is the oldest surviving culture on earth, dating back for what is believed to be over 60,000 years.

The items include ochre paintings done on slate, objects and tools used for hunting, fishing, and gathering, a didgeridoo, and carved funeral poles of a type still used by Tiwi Islanders for pukamani ceremonies. The collection also includes items from Oceania, including Papua New Guinea and Easter Island (Rapa Nui).

The collection was originally sent to Rome because it represents the spiritual meaning everyday objects possess in Aboriginal culture (each clan, or group, believes in different dieties that are usually depicted in a tangible form, such as plants or animals). The items were housed, along with other indigenous artifacts from all over the world, and stored at the Missionary Ethnological Museum, which is part of the Vatican Museums.

“Rituals of Life” is the first exhibition following extensive building renovations and art restoration. The museum will continue to reopen in stages, with the Aboriginal art on display through December, 2011.

For an exhibition audio transcript, image gallery, and video feature from ABC Radio National’s “Encounter,” click here. The Australian series “explores the connections between religion and life.”

[Photo credit: Flickr user testpatern]

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk – Vatican, Vespas & Rome’s Nightlife

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk, episode 25 – Click above to watch video after the jump

For the final installment in our series on Rome, we’ve saved the best for last & are satisfying our thirst for adventure. Watch as we tour the Vatican, rent Vespas, and check out Rome’s impromptu night life.

On the couch, we’ll dissect the differences between the Vatican & the Holy See, and show you the one place in Rome to peer through a keyhole and view 3 separate countries. Tune in to see just how crazy Roman driving actually is, what the best place public place to go after hours is, and what else the Vatican has to offer beyond the Sistine Chapel.


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Hosts: Aaron Murphy-Crews, Stephen Greenwood

Produced, Edited, and Directed by: Stephen Greenwood, Aaron Murphy-Crews, Drew Mylrea

Sistine Chapel: A Reason to Look Up

I recently saw a good friend of mine who returned from a vacation spent in Rome which she deemed fabulous. Instead of hitting several spots in Italy, she and her friend decided to focus on the Eternal City. When I asked her about the highlight, Vatican City was the winner. The Sistine Chapel was one of the reasons.

Having been there myself, I have to say, I can understand her sentiment. I can’t remember the summer crowd that I’m sure was there when I went. I do remember being in awe, as corny as that sounds. St. Peter’s Basilica may be impressive in its size, history and majesty, but there’s something about the Sistine Chapel that is such a story of triumph. Who in his or her right mind would paint a ceiling in such detail these days, particularly when lying on one’s back? Michelangelo would probably be thrilled to find out that his efforts are such a big tourist draw. Also, the Sistine Chapel is listed in Lonely Planet’s Bluelist as being one of the five reasons to look up when in Europe.

When I saw the Sistine Chapel, I knew a tad about its history and could pick out a few images I had seen in pictures before. Mostly, I didn’t know the specifics of what I was looking at. The Sistine Chapel section of the Vatican Musuems Web Page is designed to fill in the details with a virtual tour. You can click on sections of the ceiling to find out specific details about each. This would be a handy virutual tour to take before visiting the chapel in person.