Stunning Myall Creek gathering cloak created by Elders and artists for 180th massacre commemorations on Sunday

Elders and artists from around the region have united in a show of artistic strength for Aboriginal culture and identity to create a breathtaking possum skin cloak.

The cloak shows the songlines of Gomeroi people from Boggabilla to Glen Innes with Myall Creek featured in the middle, created for this year’s 180th Myall Creek memorial commemorations. 

Facilitated by artist Carol McGregor, with the assistance of two local Ngarrabul artists; Adele Chapman-Burgess and Avril Chapman various Elders and artists were brought in to design individual panels of the cloak.

The amazing piece of traditional art will be displayed at the Myall Creek and Beyond Exhibition Opening at New England Regional Art Museum on June 8.

Adele said a workshop was first held at the Bingara Living Classroom to bring people together whilst working on the cloak.

“We found evidence, through history books, that cloaks were made in this region and possum skin cloaks were worn.

“Historically, the cloaks were inscribed on the inside of the skin and were designed relating to the individual with their totem and tribal patterns, maps and journey of the country they were on.”

History tells of the cloaks being worn to protect, keep people warm and to use in ceremonies. Children would start with one cloak when born and panels would be added every year.

The possum skins for this project were ethically sourced from New Zealand and went through a smoking ceremony by Elder Kelvin Brown before being worked on.

“Uncle Kelvin smoked them because they were living things and we wanted to pay respect to them.”

Carol, Adele and Avril were employed to put together the cloak and help Elders and artists paint and use burning tools.

Starting at Bingara, the cloak hit the road to Armajun in Inverell where more people worked on individual panels.

“A book will be put together to outline the artwork on the cloak once the exhibition closes at NERAM. The centrepiece is the Myall Creek Massacre memorial and everything is designed around it.” 

Adele said it was a renewing experience for her and her sister to be part of making the Myall Creek gathering cloak.

“It feels like we’re apart of reclaiming the history and symbols, and the strength of Aboriginal people for the cultural heritage and identity. We felt so honoured and privileged to work on it.”

The exhibition Myall Creek and beyond is a partnership between the New England Regional Art Museum and the Friends of Myall Creek Memorial and has been supported by Regional Arts NSW through the Regional Arts Fund, the new South Wales Government through Create NSW and the Australian Government Department of Communications and the Arts Indigenous Language and Arts Program.