Tasmanian Aboriginal woven basket – <em>stringing community together</em>

No. 41 Tasmanian Aboriginal woven basket – stringing community together

Basket weaving is an important Tasmanian Aboriginal cultural practice. Traditionally, the intricately woven fibre baskets were highly prized for their practicality; today, they are treasured for their aesthetic excellence. The baskets were utilised in daily life: closed stitched baskets were used for carrying personal items, such as stone tools and ochre, and for collecting and storing plant food; the larger, open-stitched baskets were worn around the neck by women diving for shellfish. more...

Records of French explorer, Nicholas Baudin, provide an insight into the skill that went into their construction:

“The baskets that the women use for fishing have some worth, from the great amount of work that must go into them, and so they place considerable value on them and will only exchange them with reluctance.”
– Nicholas Baudin, February 1802

A variety of plant fibres – including the pale rush (Juncus pallidus), white flag iris (Diplarrena moraea) and forest flax lily (Dianella tasmanica) – are collected according to seasonal protocols, placed over a slow fire to make them pliable, split and/or stripped, and then woven into the desired shape using a stitch that is unique to Tasmanian Aboriginal culture.

In recent times, Tasmanian Aboriginal women have reestablished ownership of traditional fibre practices. The methods of collecting, preparing and weaving native fibres has been revived, with contemporary weavers experimenting and introducing new mediums into the mix, including a wider variety of grasses, shells, wool and feathers – ensuring that this cultural practice continues to evolve.

In 2009, a significant exhibition called tayenebe opened at TMAG, touring the eastern states of Australia from 2010 until 2012. Based on the cultural resurgence of fibre work, the exhibition showcased the work of 21 Tasmanian Aboriginal women aged between eight and 88. The baskets now form part of the Indigenous cultures collections of TMAG and the National Museum of Australia.

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  • Object maker: unknown
  • Object date: c.1840s
  • Object size: 9 x 13 cm
  • Object location: Wybalenna
  • Object display location: Henry Hunter Galleries level 1: Tasmania. Life and Environment.
  • Object source: Unknown
  • Accession number: M4845