Beautiful Children Wrapped In Culture

26 June, 2013

3 children wrapped in possum-skin cloaks
The two possum-skin cloaks made collaboratively by over 30 Koorie children
Source: Museum Victoria

A new exhibition featuring video, photography, artworks and two possum skin cloaks made by over 30 local Koorie children will be on show from 11 July at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum.

Naghlingah Boorais: Beautiful Children, an exhibition developed in partnership by Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Melbourne Museum and the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, will feature two beautiful possum-skin cloaks made collaboratively by 30 Koorie children led by artists Vicki Couzens, Esther Kirby and Maree Clarke.

“Possum-skin cloaks were traditionally made by Koorie people, both as a significant article of clothing and a marker of personal identity and status,” said Caroline Martin, Manager of Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum. “A cloak was first made for the wearer after birth, and more pelts were added as the person grew to adulthood.”

“Today, possum skin cloaks are made as a way to reconnect with culture. For the children involved in this project, the opportunity to learn the skills of cloak-making is hugely important. It gives them a sense of who they are and grounds them in their heritage.”

As a part of the cloak-making workshops, the children were given an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of Museum Victoria’s extensive Indigenous Cultures collection. The children were given a hands-on experience with various objects including a significant historic possum-skin cloak collected in the mid 1800’s. It is one of only 5 known surviving historic possum-skin cloaks and one of two in Australia, both held at Melbourne Museum.

Drawing inspiration from these historic objects, the children worked with Koorie Elders and artists to design their own cloaks, prepare and sew together the possum pelts, and then create and burn on their designs.

“Making the possum skin cloaks has helped me explain my feelings. It has made me feel proud!” said Ruby, a 13-year-old who participated in the workshop.

In addition to the two cloaks, Naghlingah Boorais: Beautiful Children will feature a variety of interactive displays, interviews with the young people, and two documentaries about the journey of this project and making of the cloaks.

“We are very excited to show Naghlingah Boorais: Beautiful Children and profile the work of these amazing young people,” said Ms Martin. “It is wonderful to directly experience our culture continuing through the transfer of knowledge to a new generation – the next in the story of 2,000 generations of Koorie people in Victoria.” 

One of the two historic possum-skin cloaks in the Museum Victoria collection will go on display in First Peoples, a new, world-first exhibition telling the story of Koorie Victoria from Creation to present day. First Peoples will open as a new long-term component of Bunjilaka on 7 September, and be on show for at least a decade.

For further media information, interviews or images, please contact:
Alex Dook on 03 8341 7141, 0478 348 880 or adook@museum.vic.gov.au
Karen Meehan on 03 8341 7136, 0478 314 014 or kmeehan@museum.vic.gov.au

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