• Gubbi Gubbi Kabi Kabi Community, Gubbi Gubbi Kabi Kabi Community Cloak, 2016, natural ochre, binder, thread on possum skins (Kuril Dhagun Indigenous space)Source: Kuril Dhagun Indigenous space
Possum-skin cloaks featuring in 'Art of the Skins' exhibition reveal ancient traditions.
Jodan Perry

27 Jun 2016 - 5:12 PM  UPDATED 27 Jun 2016 - 7:53 PM

The 'Art of Skins' exhibition in Southeast Queensland is renewing the tradition of making possum-skin cloaks.

It is a project Katina Davidson did not just co-curate - she is one of the artists who created the cloaks, reviving her own family stories.

“I chose these flowers from Purga [an Aboriginal community in Southeast Queensland] because I’ve been exploring them in my art practice to have that contemporary connection," she says. 

"Personally I’ve grown up going back there [to Purga] and it’s become a place of community celebration. That’s what I like to represent in my artwork.”

Katina’s story is one of 99 outlined onto six large Possum skin cloaks proudly shown in 'Art of the Skins', held at the State Library of Queensland.

'Art of the Skins' is a cultural revitalisation project featuring three Southeast Queensland Aboriginal communities including the Sunshine Coast’s Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi people, the Murri communities of Brisbane and the Gold

'My story on the cloak is from a watercolor..it’s a simple line drawing of wildflowers that I found at Purga Mission where my family come from.' 

Katina tells NITV News it’s all about "bringing community together, healing old rifts, telling stories and revitalising this practice that’s been lost for about 150 years".

She says revitalising this custom has a deep meaning for those involved.

“It’s really important that traditions are brought back because it’s an act of healing for communities," says Katina. 

"The act of regaining the knowledge, that belongs to us as Indigenous people, is about empowering future generations.

“Through making these cloaks a lot of people have said, ‘now that we have the skills and know how, we are going to go home and make our own family cloaks. We’re going to share these skills with other people in the community'."

The cloaks have been created by over 120 people who have aimed to share stories that have been passed on to them by their families.

The process was facilitated by workshops over a six month period, facilititated by Wathaurung artist Carol McGregor and Taungwurrung-Yorta Yorta artist Glennys Briggs.  

Katina says one single cloak represents between 10 and 40 people.

“I can’t even tell you how long it took to create one of these,” says Katina.  

“It depends on how they use the burning tools, whether they use different washes of coloured ochre, and the intricacies and complexity of the designs and stories they make.   

Sewing them together also takes a long time, she says.

Art of the Skins is open to the public until November 20 at the State Library of Queensland. For more information go to http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/showcase/artoftheskins