kanalaritja: An Unbroken String features a variety of beautiful, delicate and rare shell necklaces, created by Tasmanian Aboriginal Ancestors in the 1800s, and acclaimed makers of today, as well as a new wave of stringers who had the opportunity to learn the tradition through the luna tunapri (women’s knowledge) cultural revitalisation project.
Since 2010, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery has worked with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community to facilitate a number of luna tunapri workshops in which women in the Community – who had not had shell stringing passed down through their families – were guided through the intricate processes of collecting, cleaning and stringing.
The women were encouraged to look in their local areas for shell collecting beaches and to use the knowledge shared with them to develop their own distinctive shell stringing styles and new traditions.
Building on the overwhelming success of the luna tunapri project, the women aspired to share their journey with the wider public, leading to the creation of kanalaritja: An Unbroken String.
"We are one of the only peoples in the world stringing shells like this, so I think it is quite definitive of Tasmanian Aboriginal people. It is incredibly important to me personally and to our Community at large, whether you are practicing shell stringing or not."
Shell stringing is a celebration of culture and a symbol of identity – an unbroken string that connects the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community, to Ancestors, culture and Country.
For Pakana (Tasmanian Aborigines) an intimate understanding of Sea Country and the skill of collecting and stringing shells extends far beyond living memory.
Pierced shells from Tasmania’s west coast have dated the tradition to at least 1800 years ago. Shell stringing is the Community’s longest continued cultural practice, a practice which not only withstood invasion but continued throughout the Black War and during the time Pakana Ancestors were incarcerated in government missions at Wybalenna on Flinders Island and Oyster Cove, south of Hobart.
Today, connection to Country and cultural knowledge of shell resources, the weather patterns and the tides remains within the Pakana Community, particularly the shell stringers.
Pakana proudly continue this unique tradition and honour the fortitude of their Ancestors who ensured its survival.