Kooyang diorama in First Peoples

by Kate C
Publish date
22 March 2013
Comments (3)

The Kooyang ('eels' in the Gunditjmara family of languages) section of the upcoming First Peoples exhibition will feature an eel trap in a diorama of Western District eel-farming practice. The trap, woven from puung'ort (spear grass) by Gunditjmara woman Jody-Ann Agnew, tells the story of one of the world’s oldest aquaculture systems.

eel model And this is what it's all about - eels. This is one of several eels created for the diorama.
Image: Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria

Museum designers, curators, photographers and preparators have worked closely with Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Corporation to capture a slice of the Western District, complete with animals, plants and terrain typical of this area. The models and specimens of eels and other wildlife created by Dean Smith and Kym Haines are dazzlingly true-to-life, including a leech that Kym modelled from the little sucker that hunted him down when Jody's mother, senior weaver Aunty Eileen Alberts, took museum staff to Tyrendarra!

Dean with fish models Preparator Dean Smith holding models of native fish that he made for the Kooyang diorama. One is an unfinished cast, the other is fully painted.
Image: Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria

Steven Sparrey and Brendon Taylor are recreating the volcanic boulders of the Tyrendarra lava flow thrown out by Budj Bim (Mt Eccles) thousands of years ago. Gunditjmara people used these rocks to create an ingenious network of ponds, channels and dams to farm the eels. Aunty Eileen and Jody will oversee the final stages of the diorama construction.

Brendan Taylor working Preparator Brendan Taylor working on replicating the rocky terrain of the Western District.
Image: Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria

First Peoples opens at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum on 7 September 2013.


Media News: Taking the eel-path to a shared history

Video: Lake Condah, Gunditjmara Country

Comments (3)

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John Kean 23 March, 2013 10:46
Good to see the preps doing what they do best!!!
Rudi Pleschutschnig 23 March, 2013 19:46
love the work folks, good to see good ol preparatory work alive and well,my fondest memories of museums were the dioramas that made it all seem so real! Food for the imagination.
Angel Bottaro 12 April, 2013 23:24
Superb to see recognition of the Gunditjmara peoples incredible aquaculture culture, esp after its destruction with the onslaught of settlers.
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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.