Two years ago, we attended the opening of the biennial Ten Days on the Island festival on the beach at Devonport. This year, we gathered just before dawn, on the pataway/Burnie foreshore to celebrate mapali.
Following a Welcome to Country ceremony, Dave manganeer Gough took us on a journey to the beginning of time and the creation of the first palawa or Tasmanian Aborigine. As the beat of Taiko drums bounced off nearby rocks
we learned that moinee, the great creator, came down the sky bridge, the Milky Way to lutruwitta/Tasmania, collected some soil and ochre and took it back into the sky. There, he formed the first palawa and sent him down the sky bridge back to lutruwitta. Unfortunately, he had legs with no knee joints and the tail of a kangaroo and was unable to sit or lie down.
On hearing the pleas from palawa to help him, moinee sent down his brother, drumadeene the star spirit,
who cut off his tail, rubbing animal fat into the wound for healing and gave him knee joints.
There was much rejoicing,
fires were lit
and a trio of dancers performed to the beat of more drums.
A penguin rookery inflated in front of the drummers
and the penguins cavorted on the sand before retreating in fear from the humans.
Another story followed, that of a young warrior, niyakara, who leaves his village to hunt tara/kangaroo. He sees the village women collecting maireener shells at the water’s edge
and three warriors he doesn’t recognise are watching them.
Assuming they are up to no good, niyakara gives chase but their running strides become bounces and the three transform into kangaroos and bound away.
Three large flags, signifying the strong connection of the palawa and tara, fluttered in the light breeze
as the fires diminished and celebrations came to an end.
A few days later, we visited Makers’ Workshop to see the exhibition, Making mapali. Hundreds of artists and collaborators, along with Goldberg Aberline Studio, worked for months to bring the event to life, it was fascinating to see the detail and hours of work involved. Community participants developed abstract sketches inspired by the night sky for the sky bridge lanterns. The drawings were then digitally overlayed in Photoshop to create the unique Milky Way design.
Even the firesticks are a work of art. Made from paperbark, wattle, native grass, eucalypt leaves, banksia nut, moss and reed pods they were used carry fire, see at night and ward off bad spirits.
The inflatable penguin rookery was most impressive with colours of the rocky North West shoreline, reflection of light across Bass Strait, native grasses and penguin feathers representing an abstract interpretation of the coastline. The Goldberg Aberline Studio hand-painted the circular sample fabrics and enlarged penguin feather, then photographed and printed them onto 500 metres of fabric that has been sewn together and hand-finished.
maireener shells, also known as rainbow kelp shells, are used by Tasmanian Aboriginal women to make traditional necklaces.
The tara flags were created using a similar process to the sky bridge lanterns, combining drawings by students from Parklands High School to express the movement of the tara as well as the transformation of tara to palawa.