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National Museum of Australia

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Meelaywook - woman's upper arm ornament

2003.0028.0012

Meelaywook - woman's upper arm ornament

Object information

Physical description

A possum skin upper arm ornament for women. The ornament consists of a narrow strip of possum pelt with emu feathers attached to the lower part of the band and string on the ends of the pelt for ties. The underside of the wrist ornament pelt is coloured with orange/brown ochre.

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.

Object information

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