Possum skin cloak: Baraparapa
Possum Skin Cloak: Baraparapa,
photographer Michael Carver / Regional Arts Victoria,
Koorie Heritage Trust, 2006
Michael Carver: [email protected]
The Baraparapa possum skin cloak was made and worn by Esther Kirby at the Opening Ceremony of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
Baraparapa country extends from Gunbower, Koondrook Forests to Kerang and Barham. Murray River tribe.
Click here to watch Interview: Baraparapa Elder Esther Kirby
Esther Kirby explains the meaning of the designs she made on each panel of the Baraparapa cloak:
First row (top down)
Panel 1: Men hunting kangaroo by following the tracks along and then catching the kangaroo. Then they take it home, take it back to the camp. Then each section is divided off so that wife and the children get certain parts of the kangaroo, the men get certain part, and the mother-in-law gets certain part. It's all worked out and divided up according to male and female. That's how they did it with the big animals. They'd cut up the kangaroo and the emu. The neck or the whatever would go to the mother-in-law. The good part, the leg, would go to the men. And then the women got the heart and the liver or kidney of the animals. Basically, because it was to give them strength. They kept the bones to make knives or boondis out of. The sinews for sewing or making string bags. Sometimes they'd keep the bladder or the stomach lining, they'd keep that for water. The fur to burn the designs on.
Panel 2: The next one is the yellow belly. These are one of the better eating fish in the river. Although, a lot of people think boondi, the Murray River Cod, is a better eating fish. But I personally think the yellow belly is the better eating fish. There's plenty of those around here in the lakes and rivers and the little creeks that are around here.
Panel 3: The yabby is plenty of good eating. You can find them in the lakes and you can also find them in the rivers and the billabongs, depending on the seasons.
Panel 4: There is nothing on this one.
Panel 5: This one in the corner represents the Loddon River and the other little creeks that run into Reddy Lake. You've got Reddy One, Two and Three which are about 7km out of Kerang on the Swan Hill Road. Between the lakes, the tribes came and they sat. The men would sit around one side of the lake and the other side was women's business. This area here is women's business. You see the middens and the marks on the trees there that are out there now.
Second row (top down)
Panel 1: There is nothing on this one.
Panel 2: Men hunting. Tip of your spear, your boomerang, your stone axe and your boondi. That's basically what they use through their life as well. So once they made it, they made it to last.
Panel 3: Dingo tracks. When the old people sitting down, telling stories in the sand, they tell you what's in the area. You look at each thing that's on the ground or what's written in the caves or on the trees or bark. This is a dingo track to show you that they had them around as well. This is the first Australian dog.
Panel 4: Platypus. There are a lot of those in the river. The story about how the platypus came about is that there was a duck and a water rat that got together. And because they were from forbidden tribes, they weren't allowed to stay together. But, anyways, they run off and they got married. Their offspring had a bill, webbed feet, the fur and that's how the platypus came about.
Panel 5: Footprints where the people that travelled in the area and the dingo track next to it. So that'd be mixed up with the alpine dingo and the plains dingo.
Panel 6: The long necked turtle is a totem of my mother and her mother. That's their totem, the long necked turtle. From the Yorta Yorta and the Wemba Wemba.
Third row (top down)
Panel 1: Men hunting
Panel 2: Murray River
Panel 3: The next panel is one of my daughter's attempts at cooking bush tucker - duck, turtle, fish, mussel, shrimp and a catfish. That's her interpretation on the bush food around here.
Panel 4: The next panel is the woman's digging stick, the coolamon, the carrying dish and the grinding stones. That's basically what the women used in their camp. Once they made these implements, these lasted basically through their lifetime. Everyone that came up, young girls, becoming women, they made all their own things and they kept it throughout their life.
Panel 5: Southern Cross
Panel 6: An emu and her chicks. The emu is one our staple food diets. With the emu you get about six to eighteen eggs per nest. The surrounding area is full of emu. There is the story of how the sun was made. The two emus, they were around and the mother emu picked up the egg and threw it into the sky and it burst open and that's how the sun came about. That's one of the stories of how the sun has come.
Fifth row (top down)
Panel 1: The hands are a welcoming sign. The hands by themselves is Welcome to Country, welcome to the community and that was basically for whoever was travelling through. If you seen those you knew you was welcome in there. If it had food around it, which some of them do, that meant you can gather a lot of food in this area.
Panel 2: The large hand print belongs to Darcy Pittard. He's one of our cultural leaders that travelled up and down the area. He knew how most of the tribes and families were connected. He was the one that gave me the go-ahead on this cloak. Gave me permission to do it, as one of the male Elders from around the community.
Panel 3: Women around their campsites.
Panel 4: A group of families sitting round the edge of the lake between Reedy One and Reedy Two where there are a lot of middens.
Panel 5: The next one is wichity grubs, there's plenty around here. The edge of the river is there as well. And you find the wichity grub in the gum trees and different trees that are there.
Sixth row (top down)
Panel 1: Mussels. The best way to cook those was to cook them in the shell. It'd keep the moisture in. When the mussel was cooked, the shell would pop open so you wouldn't have to break the shell or anything like that.
Panel 2: Families digging around the water's edge and it shows your coolamons and your digging sticks there. You've got a group of young women there too - they are learning. The one with the yellow edge around it is one of the three main women's groups. It's basically a women's business. So they gather and they teach the young ones things in there.
Panel 3: The head of the Southern Cross which is one of the main collections of stars in the sky for judging what seasons are coming. Also, the whole of the Southern Cross star collection is based on the possum sitting in the fork of the tree.
Panel 4: Emu and kangaroo track shows that there's plenty around this area and it's edging onto the river because all the animals come to the waterhole.
Panel 5: Porcupine, echidna is good eating too and can be cooked in the ground. The quills are saved to do necklaces or for making needles. Or for holding cloaks together. It's one of our bush foods.
Panel 6: It's related to the river. This fish skeleton is good eating -- yellow belly. You got turtle and mussel there, also found in the river. That's relating mostly to my mother's old tribe.