Imagine canoeing through Sydney Harbour 40,000 years ago. No iconic bridge, no Opera House, no buildings. Only you, fishing with a spear. Such was the hunting ground and home of the Gadigal people, the original custodians of the land surrounding Sydney Cove.
‘Warrane’ is the Gadigal name for Sydney Cove. Through computer-generated simulation, Virtual Warrane II brings Sydney Harbour to life completely unlike we know it. Indigenous interactive artist and producer of the exhibition, Brett Leavy calls it “digital interactive art.” It’s like a role-playing game where you travel through bushland and campsites, and interact with the environment learning about flora, fauna and indigenous artefacts. A map and graphic overlay indicates where you are with reference to today’s buildings and landmarks.
The exhibition opened last Friday with a smoking ceremony and traditional dances outside Customs House. The large crowd of Sydneysiders and tourists got enthusiastically involved. “It is up to every Australia to unify and positively progress as one,” concluded a poem accompanied by the mystical sounds of the didgeridoo.
The accuracy and detail of the simulation is impressive, and the idea immersive. “I want it to be unique,” says Leavy. The advantage of this medium over a traditional painting, for example, is that “you’ve got a way to immerse people in a space,” he said. As you discover the Warrane you learn about the Gadigal way of life through embedded videos and recordings. “It’s like having a yarn with your grandma,” says Leavy.
Following a journey through Warrane, you walk out of Customs House and gaze towards the harbour with a different outlook. You can’t help but recall images from the exhibition, those that the Gadigal people would have seen. They take you back in time to a simpler, quieter place. You can now see both Sydney and Warrane.
Until Aug 19, Ground Floor, Customs House, 31 Alfred St, Circular Quay, free, 9242 8551, customshouse.com.au