On Saturday, Katina and I went up to Kenilworth, a small town in the beautiful upper Mary Valley Country behind the Blackall Range, one and a half hours drive north of Brisbane. We were there for a creative workshop with the Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi Aboriginal community on the Sunshine Coast. We had a number of participants that represented different family groups of the Sunshine Coast and it was exciting to see them come together and collaborate on one creation – a possum skin cloak.
The history of possum skin cloaks in south east Queensland will be subject of our next major exhibition which will open next year. This exhibit will not only present the history of possum skin cloaks but also display contemporary cloaks made by local communities. The cloak–making workshop is about engaging an Aboriginal community to reignite a cultural tradition. The project will pass on the historical context and practical skills to complete a possum skin cloak and bring this cultural revival to the general public. The community will also reclaim the cloak as a contemporary artefact for ongoing use after the exhibition.
The Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi group who attended were particularly artistic and the design was so impressive. The group mapped out significant sites, talked about totems or animals of the area and other important cultural motifs to include. Each member drafted a design then burnt it on to the skin and coloured with ochre. Not everyone got this far but once everyone finishes their skins they will all be sewn together to make a complete and very special cloak.
The workshop was facilitated by Carol McGregor and Glennys Briggs who have been engaging a number of Aboriginal communities in cloak-making as a process of healing and cultural revival.
All the fur is ethically sourced from New Zealand.
If you would like to contribute to our upcoming exhibition by sharing information, photographs or ephemera regarding possum skin cloaks in South East Queensland, we would love to hear from you!
We have more workshops coming up in Brisbane and Gold Coast so if you are interested, keep a look out on the State Library event calendar, or register your interest with firstname.lastname@example.org