Summary

Pre-contact, Koorie women of Southeastern Australia practiced the coiled basketry technique, making a range of small and large baskets and other Cultural material. Teaching techniques and skills to the next generation was, and continues to be, an important part of maintaining cultural knowledge and traditions. It is achieved through both active teaching and observation.
Leaves and grasses are collected and processed by the makers using knowledge practices handed down over thousands of generations. Spiny headed mat rush, common reed and puung'ort (spear grass) are most commonly used. The leaves are split, gathered in bundles and soaked to make the fibres pliable for weaving. Carry baskets for food and other items, headbands and clothing, and fibre bags for straining food were also woven by the Gunditjmara.

Although Gunditjmara women had been weaving baskets for countless generations, these craftswomen often adapted their style to suit the desires of the European women who were buying them in the colonial period. Decorative elements and stitches to incorporate features of European basketry, such as fixed handles, were added. Basket making became an important part of economic life for Aboriginal women on and off the missions, as the well-made baskets were popular with European women.

Physical Description

A coiled basket with a semi-fixed handle made using the bundle-coil technique specific to the weavers of South-eastern Australia. Made using natural fibres such as native grasses sourced using traditional knowledge practices. A Gunditjmara weaver at Lake Condah Aboriginal Station made this basket in the mid to late 1800s.

Local Name

Ngarrapan

Significance

Gunditjmara weaver Aunty Connie Hart is well-known for her role in facilitating a resurgence of traditional weaving practices amongst Gunditjmara women, who continue this practice today;

'My Mum told me we were coming into the white people's way of living. So she wouldn't teach us. That is why we lost a lot of culture. But I tricked her and I watched those old people and I sneaked a stitch or two.' Aunty Connie Hart, 1991.

Gunditjmara artist Vicki Couzens recalls, from her own family experience, the tradition of basket making in the Western District:
'The women at Framlingham (including my grandmothers and aunties) would make baskets for sale and take them to a store in Warrnambool, where they were sought after by the station owners' wives. Also the women would travel around the district on jinkers or carts and horses, with their husband or such, and sell the baskets. I know this from family oral history (Aunty Zelda Couzens and my Dad). I was given a basket, which is now about 100 years old. It was given to me by a friend Ros Aitken, whose grandmother bought baskets from the women from Framlingham in the early 1900s. Ros' grandmother lived out Terang way, near Framlingham and Warrnambool, and the women would call around to the stations and into Terang to sell baskets and such. Ros and her sister had six baskets handed down from their grandmother, one of which Ros gave to me.' Vicki Couzens.

References
Keeler, C. and Couzens, V., (eds) 2010, Meerreeng-An, Here is my Country: The Story of Aboriginal Victoria Told Through Art, p. 121, Koorie Heritage Trust/ BPA Print Group.

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