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New narrbong sculptures

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New narrbong sculptures

8 Oct 2015

by Alana Garwood-Houng

Four narrbongs (bags) made of rusted metal scavenged from rubbish dumps and farms help to tell a story about cultural continuity and respect for land and materials. Made by Waradgerie artist Lorraine Connelly-Northey, two of the works are on show in the Gallery of First Australians at the National Museum.

A dillybag made from rusted metal together with a detail of the burnt and rusted coils.
Narrbong, 2013, by Lorraine Connelly-Northey, made from the burnt and rusted coils of an old bed base (detail at right) and strands of fencing wire. Photos: Carrie Mulford. Courtesy: Australian Design Centre.

Lorraine uses the spelling 'Waradgerie', rather than the more common 'Wiradjuri', since that is the spelling used by her grandfather Alfred 'Knocker' Williams on the back of one of his artworks.

Connelly-Northey grew up in Swan Hill, Victoria where she was born in 1962. Her mother is of Waradgerie descent and her father of Irish ancestry.

Fibre weaving and farming

Lorraine grew up with both parents actively teaching her aspects of her Indigenous culture and she absorbed much of her father's rural heritage. Lorraine's father had worked as a farmhand and he taught his kids to live off the land. He impressed on Lorraine a respect for the land and the importance of listening to the needs of the land. Her father also taught her that, in farming life, all things and materials have potential use in a make do and mend practice.

Connelly-Northey's work has developed from traditional forms of fibre weaving through which she asserted her Aboriginality and connection to the past practices of her mother and her wider family. Her early metal works were made with materials scavenged from rubbish dumps and farm heaps.

The word narrbong has various spellings, including narrbang, in A New Wiradjuri Dictionary, where it is defined as 'a bag, a man's or woman's dillybag, the pouch of an animal, a net bag used to fish with'. Lorraine's translation is a 'pouch of the marsupial'.

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