A piece to celebrate culture and tradition

Published on 10 July 2019

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The team at Manning Regional Art Gallery is delighted to have the ‘Gathang Guuyang’ (Gathang Canoe) on display until 21 July.

This incredible piece offers an insight into local Aboriginal culture and workmanship and when it was created in 2012 the Gathang Guuyang was the first canoe of its kind made in more than 150 years.

It was important for the Gathang Guuyang to be on display this NAIDOC Week and its presence in the Gallery has been a talking point for everyone who has visited since it arrived in June.

It sits perfectly alongside the ‘Sea of Bellies’ NAIDOC Week exhibition that features artworks from the Biripi and Worimi communities, celebrating motherhood.

The canoe is made from the bark of a blackbutt tree that was sourced on Gathang Country and is the result of years of research into traditional customs and building techniques, including the careful selection process. For thousands of years the people of the Gathang speaking nation made and used canoes from Stringy-bark and Blackbutt trees to explore the waters around Forster and the Wallis Lake system, the Manning, Hastings and Wilson River Systems. Examples of canoe scar trees can be found throughout these coastal areas.

“It’s been our absolute pleasure to welcome this piece to the gallery and we have loved listening to the conversations it has sparked,” explained Manning Regional Art Gallery Director, Rachel Piercy.

“It’s so important to inform people about our local culture and that of our First Nations people and we’re delighted with the reception it’s received so far.

The process to create the canoe is particularly refined and methodical. The selection of a tree to create a Guuyang is very important and the tree must be straight, large and free from knot holes, cracks or disease.  The bark then needs to be heated and folded at the ends to form the canoe shape, before being secured with stakes and vine using the traditional local methods. Clay from Tobwabba (meaning ‘place of clay’) is used to plug the ends and to create a fire mound in the canoe.

This canoe was officially launched on Sydney Harbour in May 2012 at the Australian National Maritime Museum’s NAWI Indigenous Watercraft Conference complete with fire and cabbage tree palm paddles. This historic event celebrated the strength of culture and the resilience of First Nations people and gallery director Rachel Piercy is hoping to do the same at the Gallery.

Rachel will also be giving a special talk as part of NAIDOC Week celebrations, at the Gallery on Friday at 11am.

“It really is a sight to behold and we hope many locals will visit us to appreciate the workmanship and the importance of showcasing Aboriginal cultural objects,” Rachel added.

To find out more about Gathang Guuyang or to see what else is happening at the Manning Regional Art Gallery, head to their website https://mrag.midcoast.nsw.gov.au/