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6 December 2018

National Museum to host exhibition of the popular television series

    A 1962 EJ Holden station wagon, with its roof removed and used as a makeshift trailer, and a Ford Fairlane, painted in traditional Warlpiri designs and traded for pearl shells, are two of the star objects of an exhibition based on the popular Australian television series Bush Mechanics which opens at the National Museum today.

    Bush Mechanics: The Exhibition is a showcase of the ingenuity of outback mechanics, whose clever resourcefulness can turn branches, spinifex and sand into tools and spare parts to get cars back on the road.

    Developed by the National Motor Museum in South Australia, in collaboration with the Warlpiri community and PAW Media who produced the series, the exhibition is a light-hearted exploration of the importance of the car to life in the outback, which has travelled the country since April 2017.

A blue car with no doors and luggage on the roof with passengers travelling on a dirt road.
Bush Mechanics EJ Holden which belonged to series creator Francis Jurpurrula Kelly. The car is now part of the National Museum’s collection. National Film and Sound Archive

Margo Neale, Head of the Indigenous Knowledges Centre and Senior Indigenous Curator, said, ‘The National Museum deeply engages with Indigenous ways of knowing, and the bush mechanics’ ingenious solutions to broken down cars defy western systems of thought and attest to the importance of mobility at any cost.

‘Mobility has always been important for Aboriginal people who are always on the move for family, ceremony, hunting and gathering. New ways for old practices,’ Ms Neale said.

The 1962 EJ Holden from the first episode perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the show. Its roof famously caved in while transporting band equipment, but this setback was resolved by hacking the roof off and attaching it to the back of the car as a makeshift trailer. The National Museum acquired it in 2003 from Francis Jupurrurla Kelly, the owner of the car and the co-director of the television series.

Michelangelo Bolognese, Curator of Bush Mechanics: The Exhibition, said, ‘The television series captured the imagination of many Australians at the time with its humorous exploration of the relationship between Aboriginal Australia and motoring.

‘The touring exhibition on Bush Mechanics is the latest chapter in a story that started over 20 years ago in the little community of Yuendumu. It has been a privilege for the National Motor Museum to show this captivating aspect of life in Central Australia to audiences around the country, and it’s wonderful to now see it in as important a venue as the National Museum of Australia,’ Mr Bolognese said.

The quirky four-part series followed five young Warlpiri men as they travel through remote outback Australia in vehicles in various states of roadworthiness, encountering a variety of mechanical problems. Stuck in the middle of the desert with no tools or spare parts, each break down required a certain inventive bush resourcefulness to fix. The show first went to air in the early 2000s on ABC TV and reached over three million viewers.

The exhibition is rich in original footage from the series and interactive experiences. Visitors can also admire clay figurines from the Bush Mechanics claymation.

This exhibition is supported by the Visions of Australia regional touring program, an Australian Government program aiming to improve access to cultural material for all Australians.

Interviews available with:

  • Michelangelo Bolognese, Curator of Bush Mechanics: The Exhibition, National Motor Museum
  • Margo Neale, Head, Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Senior Indigenous Curator, National Museum of Australia

Media contact: Diana Streak, 02 6208 5091 | 0422 536 064 or media@nma.gov.au

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