Canoe Cultures – Nawi 2017 Travelling Our Waters

Nawi (Sydney tied-bark canoe) with fire at Nawi 2012. Photograph Andrew Frolows

On 9 November the museum will host the second national conference on Indigenous watercraft. Nawi 2017  – Travelling Our Waters brings together traditional watercraft builders, community members, historians, students and others to share knowledge and culture about canoes and all the other incredible and diverse watercraft made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The one day symposium will feature talks by people from the Kimberley, Torres Strait Islands, Arnhem Land and Tasmania. The presentations are diverse. Djambawa Marawili AM will present on the story of the Blue Mud Bay Sea Rights Case. Jimmy Thaiday and Lynette Griffiths will talk about Ghost Nets in art. There will be talks about the heroic Yarri and Jacky who rescued dozens of people from the 1852 Gundagai floods in bark canoes, and an important focus on youth and Indigenous watercraft.

Uncle Moogy in his yuki at Nawi 2012. Photograph Andrew Frolows

There will also be traditional bark canoes being constructed through the day and an opportunity to see the Gapu-Monuk Saltwater- Journey to Sea Country exhibition, as well as a host of other activities and displays about the maritime history and cultures of Indigenous Australia.

Registration details for this wonderful opportunity to learn about nawi tied-bark canoes, rolled bark ninghers, bardi rafts and more can be found here. You can view the full program here. Hurry – there are limited places and a special offer to attend the opening night of Gapu-Monuk on 8 November.

Detail from Mudhaw Warul (Sheltered Turtles Behind the Reef) © Billy Missi

Corroboree Sydney at the museum

The Corroboree Sydney festival kicked off yesterday and is running until 30 November. The festival celebrates Australia’s rich Indigenous culture, featuring leading artists, writers, dancers and musicians showcasing their creativity and sharing stories in over 100 free and ticketed events around Sydney’s iconic foreshore. For the first time, the museum will take part in the festival, with programs highlighting that for thousands of years prior to European settlement, coastal Aboriginal people fished and hunted in the waters and hinterlands, living a rich and spiritual life harmoniously with the land and environment. The museum will present four days of inspirational events including tours of our Indigenous Gallery, unique vessel tours from an Indigenous perspective and traditional canoe building demonstrations.

making Nawi canoes at the australian national maritime museum

Making bark canoes at the museum. Curator David Payne and Indigenous Programs Manager Donna Carstens constructing a nawi with the help of a student from Lawrence Hargrave School, July 2014.

The museum will showcase our ongoing NAWI project by presenting a fascinating demonstration of the construction of a full-size traditional NSW Aboriginal bark canoe. Traditional community canoe builders from around the country will join museum staff to build a NAWI using traditional methods from Saturday 29 to Sunday 30 November. The demonstration is free and all are welcome to watch.

The Australian National Maritime museum’s Eora and Saltwater gallery.

The museum’s Eora and Saltwater gallery.

Indigenous people have a deep spiritual connection to land and water. Take part in our discussion as canoe communities share their stories of past and current projects about Indigenous watercraft and connections in Canoe Conversations. This free, casual session of discussions and presentations is on the afternoon of the Saturday 29 November and is open to all.

Families inspired by the NAWI canoe building demonstrations can also try their hands at building their own mini versions to take home in free children’s paper canoe workshops for 5–12 year olds and their parents, also running from Saturday 29 to Sunday 30 November.

HMB Endeavour at the museum.

The HMB Endeavour replica at the museum.

We will also be providing special Indigenous interpretation of some of our permanent attractions during the festival. Jump on board the museum’s Endeavour replica and get a glimpse of what it was like for the traditional Aboriginal people living along the foreshores of the harbour. We’ll also host guided tours reflecting on our Indigenous history and encouraging visitors to look at the vessel through different eyes, taking on a dual perspective of the East Coast journey.

–Donna Carstens, Indigenous Programs Manager

Find out more about the museum’s Corroboree Sydney events.

Meetings on the Murray

Five days in Victoria and the Murray River, and I have had discussions or inspections involving an amazing variety of craft over a short period, showing once again what a diverse collection of historic craft and related people that we have in Australia. From a basic hand worked colonial log craft to the most luxurious steam yacht in the country, through paddle steamers, barges and corrugated iron dinghies then finally back to where things began in this country, Indigenous bark canoes and a community gathering.

A Maritime Museums of Australia Support Scheme (MMAPSS)  funded vessel inspection in Echuca was the initial reason for coming down to the Murray, but the Australian Register of Historic Vessels (ARHV) came aboard as well, and this combination of resources has yielded some very useful work and contacts over five days from 20 to 24 February.

Driving across from Albury I stopped at Wahgunyah, once one of the busiest inland ports when it was at the top end of the paddle steamer trade along the Murray River. Here, on a private property I was able to inspect closely one of those hidden gems of history, a real curiosity. It was a semi-circular shaped vessel made from part of a red gum log decades ago, perhaps over 100 years ago. It may have just carried a few people or some goods on the local creeks to and from the port.  The raked ends were once panelled over and only the remnants of the nails survive, it has cut outs and fastening holes that may have related to its method of use, and a sump for bailing it out.  This unusual craft been on the ARHV for two years (HV000509) but it was terrific to see it up close and confirm various details.

The red gum log boat at Wahgunyah. Image by David Payne

The red gum log boat at Wahgunyah. Image by David Payne


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