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Reproduction of a possum skin cloak collected in 1872 from Lake Condah

Object type
Cloaks

Object number
2003.0028.0002

Description
Gunditjmara possum skin cloak called 'Palooyn wanyoo ngeeye alam Meen' and translated as 'Possum skin cloak for our Ancestor'. The cloak is made from possum skin pelts stitched with waxed cotton and pokerwork designs burnt into the skins.

The cloak is a reproduction of the Gunditjmara cloak [1872] held by Museum Victoria. The makers visited the collection and were inspired to make reproductions as a form of cultural preservation. The Tooloyn Koortakay exhibition developed by the makers was displayed at Melbourne Museum during NAIDOC week in 2002 and a new exhibition with further historical material was produced by the National Museum of Australia in 2004. Made by Vicki Couzens and Debra Couzens, Kirrae Wurrong. A film produced by National Museum of Australia in association with Golden Seahorse Productions details the cloak making method. For further information see A J Reynolds et al (2005) 'Wrapped in a possum skin cloak' NMA Press, Canberra.

Collection name
Tooloyn Koortakay collection

Collection statement of significance
The Tooloyn Koortakay Collection comprises thirty pieces including a reproduction of the Maiden's Punt Yorta Yorta possum skin cloak collected in 1853, a reproduction of the Lake Condah Gunditjmara possum skin cloak collected in 1872, pastel drawings, lino cuts, etchings, possum skin dance ornaments and a selection of tools for making possum skin cloaks. As the cloaks were well over one hundred years old and slowly deteriorating, Lee Darroch, Treahna Hamm, Vicki Couzens and Debra Couzens undertook the project as a commitment to cultural regeneration.

Possum skin cloaks are a significant aspect of Aboriginal cultural heritage from Victoria and other parts of southeastern Australia. Prior to 1830 almost every person had his or her own possum skin cloak to wear during winter and use for a mattress or blanket. Cloaks were incised with designs representing clan identity, animals, plants and natural features. As there are only five cloaks from this region known to exist in the world, the Tooloyn Koortakay collection is an important historical record as well as a significant expression of contemporary cultural change and identity.

Maker
Debra Couzens

Maker
Vicki Couzens

Place made
Portland, Victoria, Australia

Place made
Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia

Date made
2002

Subject
Lake Condah, Victoria, Australia

Date of event
1872

Materials
Fur, Animal hide

Dimensions
Length: 2620mm
Width: 1760mm



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