Wergaia, Wemba Wemba artist Kelly Koumalatsos is the winner of the prestigious Koorie Art Show, Creative Victoria Award for Excellence in Any Media announced on Saturday 7 December 2019.
In a conversation with NITV Radio Kelly Koumalatsos explained that early on in her artistic career she worked on native materials especially the possum cloak because of its significance in the lives of Aboriginal peoples of South East Australia.
“Everybody, every baby, every woman had a possum cloak because of the cold,” Kelly Koumalatsos said.
And when she started using possum cloaks for her artwork, some thirty years ago, these furs were rare and there were hardly any traditional ones around.
Over the years, Kelly has experimented with this skin introducing unique techniques and crossing boundaries.
“It is very unorthodox to Aboriginal people as well as it is unorthodox in a traditional Western sense for print makers. Because I put them through a printing press,” Kelly Koumalatsos said.
Portrait Of Sister In Laws; Wemba Wemba Great Aunty Frieda Stewart And Wergaia Great Grandmother Eleanor Stewart, 2019- The award-winning blouse has possum fur print on it and was inspired by a photograph taken in the early 1900s.
‘’This blouse is from a portrait of my ancestors. It’s a possum fur printed blouse from the late 1800's to the early 1900's. It represents the strength of the women in my family and their ability to do more than simply survive the oppression of the times,” Kelly Koumalatsos said in a statement about her award-winning piece.
Kelly Koumalatsos has high esteem and admiration for how her forebears ooze with strength and confidence in the photograph.
“They look absolutely magnificent. They are young and beautiful and black and strong. So dignified. They really own the space they are in.”
Kelly also explained that the possum fur print symbolises the cultural identity of her Great Grandmother and her Great Aunty despite living in tough colonial conditions.
“Granny was born on Ebenezer Mission in 1887 and was a strong and determined woman who had kept her own dictionary of Wergaia language.”
The wining artwork is on display at the Koorie Heritage Trust, Federation Square - Melbourne, until February 2020.