So it is with Meerreeng-an: Here is My Country, The Story of Aboriginal Victoria Told Through Art. It is stunningly gorgeous and every school in Victoria has been lucky enough to receive one.
The Story Cycle is arranged in nine themes arranged to explain central cultural concepts. There are stories and artworks showcasing
- Koorie Creation myths;
- the transmission of culture and law;
- ceremonies, music and dance;
- cloaks, clothing and jewellery, and
- land management, foods, fishing, hunting, weapons and tools
The experience of invasion and conflict is also explored, and resilience is celebrated in the sections about culture and identity, country and kin.
The book has numerous examples of artworks matched with stories which explain Aboriginal culture and beliefs to non-indigenous Australians like me, but for copyright reasons I’m not able to share the artwork here. However you can see some of it at Culture Victoria and there is also a video that shows how a kangaroo tooth necklace was made. Click these links to get an idea of the contents:
- The Time of Chaos told by Carolyn Briggs and Bunjil the Eagle created by Mandy Nicholson. This is the creation story that explains how plains along the southern coast of Victoria were inundated to form Port Phillip Bay. In the book this is also matched with a beautiful kangaroo skin cloak created by Mandy Nicholson. It is painted to form a map of Port Phillip Bay and all the rivers that flow into it. Every Melbourne schoolkid should know this story and the role of Bunjil the Eagle who resolved conflict between two warring nations and is the protector of our city.
- How the Murray River Was Made told by Irene Thomas and Snake and Water-lilies created by Ralph Nicholas is another creation story.
- The Possum Skin Cloak designed by Wally Cooper isn’t just gorgeous, it’s also symbolic of the warmth and the safety of belonging and of knowing who you are.
- The Eel Pot created by Doris Paton represents food cycles – hunting and gathering bush tucker.
- Rachel Mullett’s painting ‘Metung’ and poem will touch your heart.
This is a fabulous resource for schools, (and invaluable for the Aboriginal Culture and History Cross-Curriculum Priority in the new Australian Curriculum), but it’s also essential reading for anyone interested in Aboriginal art and culture.
Cross-posted at LisaHillSchoolStuff.
Title: MEERREENG-AN HERE IS MY COUNTRY: The Story of Aboriginal Victoria Told Through Art
Edited by Chris Keeler and Vicki Couzens
Publisher: Koorie Heritage Trust, Melbourne, 2010
ISBN 978-0-9807863-0-9 (Paperback) ISBN 978-0-9807863-1-6 (Hardback); 256 pp, full colour