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10 August 2017

Ancient shell stringing tradition lives on in touring exhibition

kanalaritja: An Unbroken String tells significant Tasmanian Aboriginal story

A national touring exhibition focused on shell stringing, one of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community’s most culturally significant and closely guarded traditions, opens at the National Museum of Australia today.

kanalaritja: An Unbroken String, from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG), features a variety of beautiful, delicate and rare shell necklaces, created by Tasmanian Aboriginal ancestors in the 1800s.

This collection is complemented by works by acclaimed makers of today and a new wave of stringers who had the opportunity to learn the tradition through the luna tunapri (women’s knowledge) cultural revitalisation project.

TMAG has worked with the local Aboriginal community since 2010 to facilitate a number of luna tunapri workshops in which women, who did not benefit from intergenerational transfer of knowledge, were guided through the intricate processes of collecting, cleaning and stringing shells.

National Museum Director, Dr Mathew Trinca, said he was delighted to share such an important Tasmanian tradition with the wider community.

‘The exhibition is a celebration of cultural survival across generations and it is a privilege to play a part in helping those treasures form a link to the future,’ Dr Trinca said.

TMAG Director Janet Carding said, ‘Shell stringing has never before been the focus of a touring exhibition, nor comprehensively documented in a dedicated publication featuring a range of essays and photographs.

kanalaritja: An Unbroken String is a culmination of the journey of cultural renewal, while also celebrating the generations of makers who have sustained this uniquely Tasmanian Aboriginal cultural practice,’ Ms Carding said.

Media contact: Tracy Sutherland, 02 6208 5338 | 0438 620 710 or

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