Sunday Arts Magazine

7 Mar 2023

Koorie Hertiage Trust – Second Skin

Art Collection, Art Exhibition, Arts

Koorie Hertiage Trust – Second Skin

First Peoples have used pelts in ceremonial and everyday life since time immemorial.
KHT has one of Australia’s most significant collections of South East Australian art and cultural belongings.
It is from this collection that Second Skin: Essence of Country brings together 22 artists and presents
works and cultural belongings that relate to the use of animal pelts in cultural practices.
For tens of thousands of years possum skin has been used in the production of cloaks to protect First
Peoples from the wind, rain, snow and cold in South East Australia, but are also made for use in
ceremony, making music, trade, to reflect cultural identity, map Country and pass cultural knowledge down
through generations.
The exhibition will present underlying themes relating to cultural and spiritual resilience; pride in identity and
community; connection to culture, community and Country.
Featured KHT Collection artists include William Barak (Wurundjeri); William Carter (Nharrang Clan of
Wiradjuri Nation, and Pajong and Wallaballooa Clans of Ngunnawal Nation); Maree Clarke (Yorta Yorta,
Wamba Wamba, Mutti Mutti, Boonwurrung); Wally Cooper (Yorta Yorta); Vicki Couzens (Keeray
Woorrong Gunditjmara); Lee Darroch (Yorta Yorta, Mutti Mutti, Boon Wurrung); Mick Harding
(Taungwurrung); Val Heap (Yorta Yorta); Nola Kerr (Yorta Yorta, Jaara); Kelly Koumalatsos (Wergaia,
Wamba Wamba); Cassie Leatham (Daungwurrung, DjaDjaWurrung); Gayle Maddigan (Wamba Wamba,
Wertikgia); Teena Moffatt (Yorta Yorta, Gunaikurnai, Gunditjmara); Isobel Morphy-Walsh (Taun
Wurrung); Kent Morris (Barkindji); Jenny Murray-Jones (Yorta Yorta); Mandy Nicholson (Wurundjeri,
Dja Dja wurrung, Ngurai illum wurrung); Daryl Rose (Gunditjmara); Iluka Sax-Williams (Taungurung,
Tibrean); Titta (Diana) Secombe (Jardwadjali, Gunditjmara); Len Tregonning ( Gunai /Kurnai); Werrimul
Art & Krafts; and Kevin Williams (Wiradjuri).
The rich knowledge embodied in these works ranging from cloaks, marngrook, arm bands, headdresses,
necklaces, bags, vessels, baby carriers, and various forms of contemporary art and craft, continues to
flourish throughout South East Australia.
Organic forms of cultural material act as powerful reminders of the natural life cycle of living things – from
birth, through life, to death and the inevitable return to Country. Procuring pelts was part of a larger waste-
free process of harnessing the resources of Country. Long after the rest of the animal has been utilised,
the pelt continues to provide physical warmth and an ongoing physical connection to Country, culture and
Possum skin cloaks are also an important reminder and marker of time, both materially and in their method
of production. Beginning with a small number of pelts at birth, the cloak grows as pelts are added
throughout a person’s lifetime, and is decorated with cultural designs and symbols. The various designs
and markings made on the cloak, in both pigments and engravings, tell the story of an individual’s life
journey, forming a visual biography and link to cultural identity. The cloak often follows its owners’ journey
through life, marking key events and milestones, to finally be laid to rest with them when they pass into the


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