kanalaritja: An Unbroken String offers a glimpse for the first time into the ancient women’s practise of shell stringing by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community. Kept alive by a new wave of stringers, this rare opportunity features exquisite shell necklaces, essays and photographs curated by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.
For the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community, ancestral stories, ceremony, ritual and spirit are embodied in shell stringing practices that extend back for many generations, far beyond living memory. The intimate knowledge of ‘sea country’ and the painstaking skill of collecting, cleaning and stringing shells connects people, across time, to Community, Culture and Country.
Few families from the Bass Strait Islands retained responsibility for continuing and safeguarding the tradition over the twentieth century. Faced with the potential loss of the important practice, a Community driven revitalisation project, luna tunapri, women’s knowledge, was founded in 2010. Since this time, the workshops have supported eighteen women from across the state to work alongside three highly respected makers who shared the skills of stringing. In essence, the group has revitalised knowledge in families who had been unable to continue the tradition. The opportunity to learn from Elders continues to be a journey of healing and re-connection.
The kanalaritja: An Unbroken String exhibition is a culmination of the shell stringing journey of resilience and revitalisation – a testament to one of the oldest continuous cultural practices of Tasmanian Aborigines that, like the Community itself, has endured, survived and proudly asserts a continuing presence and diversity.