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Great southern desert dwellers in Canberra

28 SEPTEMBER 2004

The National Museum of Australia this week announces details of its forthcoming exhibition, Extremes: Survival in the Great Deserts of the Southern Hemisphere, and introduces three remarkable stories of survival in some of the world's harshest conditions.

Extremes is an archaeological adventure through the deserts of Australia, South America and Africa, tracing ancient rock art and desert lives shaped by dramatic environmental and social change.

Central to the exhibition are the stories of a Namibian elder, a young Chilean adventure tour guide and an Aboriginal rock art custodian who are in Canberra this week to launch Extremes.

This is the first time the group has come together to compare their lives, desert identity and dreams for introductory film pieces to feature in the exhibition, which opens on 26 December. National Museum curator and archaeologist Mike Smith met the trio during three years of desert travel and research.

WHAT: International desert visitors launch Extremes

WHEN: 10am, Thursday, 30 September 2004

WHERE: Friends Lounge, National Museum of Australia

Extremes looks at the extraordinary human histories of Australia's Red Centre, South America's Atacama and Africa's Namib and Kalahari. The three continents will be introduced by:

  • Rosa Ramos, who grew up on a traditional Chilean desert farm in a small oasis, and now works as an adventure tour guide in the ancient city of San Pedro de Atacama.
  • Syd Coulthard, an Aboriginal elder from Ukaka, near Kings Canyon, a veteran stockman, cameleer and rock art custodian deeply versed in desert knowledge.
  • Rudolf Dausab, a Topnaar elder from Namibia who speaks the local 'click' language and is a strong campaigner for his desert people, who still herd cattle and harvest local bush foods.

Extremes includes 350 fascinating objects - from a 4000 year old Chilean mummy mask to Dr Livingstone's compass and cap - and is on show at the National Museum of Australia from 26 December 2004 to 9 October 2005.

For interviews, striking images and a full media kit please contact public affairs director Martin Portus on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or m.portus@nma.gov.au