2020 Gunditjmara Alive

Having worked on the Makassar-Yirrkala artist exchange project, Richard Frankland invited me to work with him on ‘Gunditjmara Alive’. ‘Gunditjmara Alive’ is a community engagement program that aims to reclaim, maintain and reinforce Gunditjmara languages and dialects through song. The project will culminate in the creation of the first ever Gunditjmara language album sung by Gunditjmara people. The project brings together Gunditjmara people who, with the assistance of Vicki Couzens and the Victorian Corporation for Aboriginal Languages, will translate their song into language. Songwriters will learn how to sing their songs in language and then through a series of workshops, including one at Heywood & District Secondary College, we will teach these songs to community. A key component of the project will be a series of short interviews where participants will reflect on their experience of writing and singing in language. The project is funded with a grant from Indigenous Language and Arts Program through the University of Melbourne. My role is to help make this happen and act as the liaison between the university and the project team.

A Gunditjmara weaver at Lake Condah Aboriginal Station made this Ngarrapan in the mid to late 1800s. Gunditjmara artist Vicki Couzens recalls, from her own family experience, the tradition of basket making in the Western District: ‘The women at Framlingham (including my grandmothers and aunties) would make baskets for sale and take them to a store in Warrnambool, where they were sought after by the station owners’ wives. Also the women would travel around the district on jinkers or carts and horses, with their husband or such, and sell the baskets. I know this from family oral history (Aunty Zelda Couzens and my Dad). I was given a basket, which is now about 100 years old. It was given to me by a friend Ros Aitken, whose grandmother bought baskets from the women from Framlingham in the early 1900s. Ros’ grandmother lived out Terang way, near Framlingham and Warrnambool, and the women would call around to the stations and into Terang to sell baskets and such. Ros and her sister had six baskets handed down from their grandmother, one of which Ros gave to me.’ ((Museums Victoria Collections, https://collections.museumsvictoria.com.au/items/158666, accessed 14 August 2020).

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