Tasmania: Pre-trip reading and viewing suggestions



Kanalaritja: An Unbroken String Honouring the Tradition of Tasmanian Aboriginal Shell Stringings. Video produced in relation to TMAG’s  shell-stringing exhibition  Available on SBS on demand or Vimeo (fees may apply). 

A hard copy version of Kanalaritja is available from the TMAG shop

Kanalaritja tells the story of Tasmanian Aboriginal shell stringing, a story of survival and resilience. For the first time historic necklaces and images, works from the Furneaux Islands and contemporary works from a new wave of shell stringers appear in an exhibition that celebrates hundreds of generations of tradition. The viewer is guided on this rich journey by a group of senior shell stringers as they pass the practise on to a new generation. This film is dedicated to the strong Tasmanian Aboriginal women who, against all odds, ensured the cultural practice of shell stringing survived.

Lola Greeno Cultural Jewels: Honouring the Past/Making a Future: The Tasmanian Aboriginal Shell Necklace Tradition – Julie Gough Read pdf here

Lola Greeno ‘Shell necklace’ – National Gallery of Australia, Watch video here

Australian Design Centre On Tour | Lola Greeno: Cultural Jewels | Exhibition Behind the Scenes – Watch video here

Sea Country – A Great Southern Reef film exploring Tasmanian Aboriginal connection to kelp forests and their deep connection to the ocean. It connects them to the past, enriches the present and inspires their futures. Dean Greeno is an artist, scientist and custodian who turns to sea-country for inspiration in his work. Vicki West creates sculptures from kelp – evolving a traditional art form into contemporary designs that depict the beauty and fragility of sea-country. Rob Anders teaches his daughter Maddie the cultural importance of catching a feed – always mindful that sea-country is traditionally women’s country and she must learn when to turn back. This is their connection to sea country. Watch here

Tayenebe – Tasmania Aboriginal women’s fibre work  by Jennie Gorringe, Julie Gough, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (2009)

The Tayenebe exhibition featured Tasmanian Aboriginal women’s historic & contemporary fibre work. Tayenebe is a word of the southeast Nueonne people of Bruny Island that means ‘exchange’ & the exhibition reveals three centuries of different cross and intercultural interactions based on the making and collecting of Tasmanian Aboriginal fibrework.

This Place: Artist Series – Julie Gough https://iview.abc.net.au/video/RA1915H001S00

Article re: TMAG, Taypani Milaythina-tu ‘Return to Country’ exhibition – here

Aboriginal women retrace history to connect with country and language. Three Aboriginal women have retraced steps to speak the names of places on country in Tasmania. Theresa Sainty, Sharnie Read, and Rosetta Thomas made the journey 186 years after it was taken by George Augustus Robinson and a guide, using the very records and illustrations created by him to identify the exact location of a particular ‘little river’. Theresa Sainty from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre celebrates the journey to namuruwatim on Your Afternoon. https://www.abc.net.au/radio/hobart/programs/your-afternoon/theresa-sainty/9982012

Interview with Aunty Patsy Cameron, Aboriginal elder. Like many Tasmanian Aboriginal people, Aunty Patsy is a direct descendant of Mannalargenna – a revered clan leader within the Coastal Plains Nation at the time of British colonisation. The conversation touches on Aunty Patsy’s life growing up on Flinders Island and the deeper history of colonisation and its impacts.  https://www.swagfamily.com.au/tas/aunty-patsy-cameron/

Handmade in Tasmania by Steven French: A celebration of 35 Tasmanian Artisans providing an insight into why people make things by hand and what inspires them to do so.

Nan Bray (White Gum Wool) – Article on Nan’s ethical, no slaughter wool growing and yarn production is here.

Cultural Strands compiled by Carly Davenport Acker: Cultural Strands unites distinct voices of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal practitioners, curators and academics into a fabric that investigates fibre arts. Presentation material and essays written for the ‘Cultural strands/Woven visions and Rhythm waves’ public program are featured.

Mountain : Inspirations from the Wild – Art to Knits by Prue Hutton and Sally Ord. Utilising vivid artwork, stories, unique knitting designs and photographs, Prue and Sally transport you to a sanctuary very dear to their hearts. Join them on excursions shaped by weather and terrain, altitude, plants and birds, history and the people they meet on the track. Childhood recollections meld with their new mountain experiences to provide the inspiration for design interpretation.

Maria, Voyages in design – Art to Knits (2018) by Prue Hutton and Sally Ord. The colours, textures, patterns and history of Maria Island have inspired a sketchbook approach to eight handknitting designs. Prue Hutton’s striking artwork and diary from a four-day walk on Maria have been interpreted in unique handknits by Sally Ord. Readers can immerse themselves in the places that inspired Prue’s artwork and then follow the knitting patterns to recreate Sally’s exquisite garments. The story behind each design unfolds through the journey, explaining how it relates to the history, scenery, animals or bird life of the island. It details why particular colours, yarn and stitch patterns have been chosen for each garment. Photographs of the designs allow readers to view patterns and finishing details, enriching the relationship between seeing and interpretation.

Woven Forms – Contemporary basket making in Australia by Diana Conroy: Brings together the outstanding work of Indigenous and non-Indigenous basket makers from across Australia. This publication celebrates the beauty, diversity and importance of an art form with an ancient past and exciting future.

Re Coil – Change and Exchange in Coiled Fibre Art (2007) by Margie West: From the quirky to the traditional, this book features a unique collection of innovative and contemporary forms from fibre artists across Australia.  ReCoil highlights a rich legacy of inter-cultural exchange showcasing the work of 12 Indigenous, and three non-Indigenous artists who have collaborated with their Indigenous peers. The artists’ common love of coiling has resulted in the creation of vibrant, intricate and often fantasy filled artworks. This is the exhibition catalogue from the Artback Northern Territory exhibition which toured Australia between 2008 and 2010.

General and Historical:

Aboriginal Australian & Tasmanian Rock Carvings & Paintings & Aboriginal Australian Decorative Art by Daniel Sutherland Davidson (2011). First published in 1936 and 1937, these rare books were written by the most important ethnographer of his time, Davidson’s reputation for the quality and quantity of work produced is unmatched. The volumes extensively cover the rock engravings and paintings and also discuss in detail the techniques and styles of decoration, on weapons, baskets and containers, pearl shells, baobab nuts, tree carvings, grave posts, bullroarers, churingas, waningas and many others objects. The symbolism and distribution of design elements and originating areas are also discussed.

Aboriginal Biocultural Knowledge in South-eastern Australia: Perspectives of Early Colonists by Fred Cahir, Ian D. Clark, Philip A. Clarke. Indigenous Australians have long understood sustainable hunting and harvesting, seasonal changes in flora and fauna, predator–prey relationships and imbalances, and seasonal fire management. This is the first book to examine historical records from early colonists who interacted with south-eastern Australian Aboriginal communities and documented their understanding of the environment, natural resources such as water and plant and animal foods, medicine and other aspects of their material world. This book provides a compelling case for the importance of understanding Indigenous knowledge, to inform discussions around climate change, biodiversity, resource management, health and education.

Aborigines of Tasmania by Henry Ling Roth / Marion E. Butler / James Backhouse Walker / J. G. Garson / Edward B. Tylor. First published in 1890 in a run of just 200 copies, anthropologist Henry Ling Roth’s The Aborigines of Tasmania provides a comprehensive account of native Tasmanians’ life and culture. Roth, writing in the wake of the Tasmanian Aborigines’ extinction, produces ‘an approach to absolute completeness’ that relies on the accounts of the explorers, colonisers, and anthropologists who preceded him. His work covers an exhaustive range of detail, from the Tasmanians’ mannerisms to their psychology, origin, and language. Compiling his predecessors’ observations and arguments, Roth often sets opinions in opposition to highlight the lack of consensus amongst those who encountered the Tasmanians.

A History of Tasmania by Henry Reynolds. This captivating work charts the history of Tasmania from the arrival of European maritime expeditions in the late eighteenth century, through to the modern day. Reynolds presents the perspectives of both Indigenous Tasmanians and British settlers, providing an original and engaging exploration of these first fraught encounters. This book is a powerful, engaging and moving account of Tasmania’s unique position within Australian history.

Black Man’s Houses (Movie 1992) Link here or here. This documentary tells the story of black survival in Tasmania amidst the continuing suppression of history and culture. In doing so, it challenges skin-deep assumptions about Aboriginality today. More than a hundred years after the Tasmanian Aboriginal people were declared extinct, their descendants set out to reclaim the lost graves of their ancestors on Flinders Island in Bass Strait. The neglected burial site at Wybalenna (or ‘Black Man’s Houses’) which, in the 1830s was Australia’s first segregated Reserve, is now a battleground dividing a community. Although set on a tiny island, BLACK MAN’S HOUSES has major relevance in a post-colonial world which has underestimated the ability of Indigenous cultures to evolve, to adapt and to incorporate their conquerors.

Deep South: Stories from Tasmania by Ralph Crane and Danielle Wood. A collection of twenty-four short stories that celebrate the history, culture and creativity of Tasmania. Tasmania is another country – a lush, sometimes foreboding island with a people fiercely protective of its history, culture and creativity.  The collection brings together the finest stories about Tasmania, includes works by notable early Australian writers, such as Marcus Clarke and Tasma; internationally renowned practitioners, like Hal Porter, Carmel Bird and Nicholas Shakespeare; and a range of newer voices, from Danielle Wood and Rohan Wilson to Rachael Treasure. These superb stories showcase the island’s colonial past, its darkness and humour, the unique beauty and savagery of its landscape.

Forty South magazine Forty South is for people who live in Tasmania, those who wish they lived here and those who wish they’d never left. A household name in the state, Forty South offers good writing and beautiful photographs about Tasmanian places and people, environment and wilderness, tourism and travel, food and wine, the arts, history, science, politics and business. It is a high-quality, intelligently curated platform for credible opinions on important issues. Check their website and digital offerings here.

Grease and Ochre : The blending of two cultures at the colonial sea frontier by Patsy Cameron. In the early years of the nineteenth century, a small number of European men moved from the river towns of northern Tasmania onto the small islands of Eastern Bass Strait. Taking Tasmanian Aboriginal women as their wives, the Straitsmen set up small-island homes on what became the colonial sea frontier. There have been many interpretations of the result of this blending of two cultures. This book is an invaluable contribution to Tasmania’s historical tradition, focusing attention on the place-scapes where modern Tasmanian Aboriginal Culture was born.

In Tasmania by Nicholas Shakespeare. A brilliant account of 200 years of Tasmanian history and an acclaimed writer’s discovery of his secret connection with that island and its past. In Tasmania on holiday, novelist and Chatwin biographer Nicholas Shakespeare discovered a house on a 9-mile beach and instantly decided this was where he wanted to live. He didn’t know then that his ancestor was the corrupt and colourful Anthony Fenn Kemp, now known as ‘the Father of Tasmania’, or that he would find relatives living on the island. A fine story teller, Shakespeare interweaves his personal journey into a new-found paradise with a brilliant account of the two turbulent centuries of Tasmania’s history.

Into the Heart of Tasmania: A Search For Human Antiquity (2017) by Rebe Taylor. In 1908 English gentleman, Ernest Westlake, packed a tent, a bicycle and forty tins of food and sailed to Tasmania. On mountains, beaches and in sheep paddocks he collected over 13,000 Aboriginal stone tools and believed he had found the remnants of an extinct race whose culture was akin to the most ancient Stone Age Europeans. But in the remotest corners of the island Westlake encountered living Indigenous communities. Into the Heart of Tasmania tells a story of discovery and realisation. One man’s ambition to rewrite the history of human culture inspires an exploration of the controversy stirred by Tasmanian Aboriginal history. It brings to life how Australian and British national identities have been fashioned by shame and triumph over the supposed destruction of an entire race. To reveal the beating heart of Aboriginal Tasmania is to be confronted with a history that has never ended.

Island Story: Tasmania in Object and Text  by Ralph Crane and Danielle Wood. A handsome full-colour book pairing unique items from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) with selections of original writing about the southern island. Indigenous dispossession, a cruel penal history, gay-rights battles; exceptional landscapes, unusual wildlife, environmental activism; colonial architecture, arts and crafts, a thriving creative scene — all are part of the story of Tasmania. The authors have selected almost sixty representative TMAG objects- from shell necklaces to a convict cowl, colonial scrimshaw to a thylacine pincushion, contemporary photography to a film star’s travelling case. Each is matched to texts old and new, by writers as diverse as Anthony Trollope, Marie Bjelke-Petersen, Helene Chung, Jim Everett, Heather Rose and Ben Walter.

Manganinnie (Movie 1980). Available on SBS on demand until 24 February 2021. Australia, 1830. Edward Waterman and his family arrive in a remote part of Tasmania. Waterman is pressured into helping British colonial forces carry out the Black Line – enforced removal of Aboriginal Australian’s from land near white settlements. Aboriginal woman Manganinnie survives a Black Line raid which claims the life of her husband, Meenopeekameena. During an innocent family outing in the wilderness, Waterman’s young daughter Joanna becomes separated from her family leaving Manganinnie, who has been hiding in the area, to take Joanna into her care. Manganinnie explores a dark chapter in Australian history and delivers a richly textured tale of isolation and survival.

My Home in Tasmania: During a Residence of Nine Years by: Louisa Anne Meredith. This account of the author’s life in Tasmania was published in 1852. Meredith was an experienced traveller, and this work is remarkable for being the first detailed account by a woman of life in the colony. Its shrewd observations and descriptive personal narrative make it an engaging read, as well as providing a valuable historical record. A keen botanist and artist, Meredith describes the island’s natural life in great detail in beautiful and evocative passages. This first volume covers the journey to the island and her initial impressions of it. Her discussions of ‘polite society’, politics, prisoner and ex-prisoner populations, the ‘white slave’ issue, and her attitudes to the island’s native people, also provide fascinating examples of colonial attitudes in the period and of how different cultures and backgrounds existed together on the island. 

Secret Tasmania – by Phillip and Mary Blake. Revealing over 75 secrets, this is a tourist companion for those interested in discovering the myths, legends and well-hidden history behind Tasmania’s tourist-friendly facade, or a souvenir for past visitors. Divided into regions, the book includes a map of Tasmania showing the major towns and reference points mentioned in the text. Each entry ends with a brief description of how to reach its location. Philip and Mary Blake run a writing business from their home in Tasmania. Philip is a former winner of an Australian Literary Board Fellowship and a multi-award winning advertising copywriter. Mary, ‘the flying librarian’, is a freelance librarian and researcher.

The Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia – edited by Bill Arthur and Frances Morphy is a unique tool for exploring and understanding the lives and cultures of Australia’s First Peoples. The maps, which form the core of the book, are supplemented by explanatory text and numerous diagrams, photographs and illustrations, including Indigenous artworks.

The Tasmanian Aborigines: A History Since 1803 by Lyndall Ryan. Ryan’s new account of the extraordinary and dramatic story of the Tasmanian Aborigines is told with passion and eloquence. It is a book that will inform and move anyone with an interest in Australian history.’ – Professor Henry Reynolds, University of Tasmania.  ‘A powerful and insightful historical account about a unique island and its First peoples, their dispossession and their struggle for survival and cultural birthright/heritage that reaches from the deep past to the present day.’ – Patsy Cameron, Tasmanian Aboriginal author, cultural geographer and cultural practitioner. Tasmanian Aborigines were driven off their land so white settlers could produce fine wool for the English textile mills. By the time Truganini died in 1876, they were considered to be extinct. Yet like so many other claims about them, this was wrong. Far from disappearing, the Tasmanian Aborigines actively resisted settler colonialism from the outset and have consistently campaigned for their rights and recognition as a distinct people through to the present. Lyndall Ryan tells the story of the Aboriginal people of Tasmania, from before the arrival of the first whites to current political agendas. Tasmania has been the cradle of race relations in Australia, and their struggle for a place in their own country offers insights into the experiences of Aboriginal people nation-wide. Lyndall Ryan is honorary professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Newcastle.

Truganini – Journey through the Apocalypse by Cassandra Pybus (2020) – the story of Truganini re-told. Cassandra Pybus’s ancestors told a story of an old Aboriginal woman who would wander across their farm on Bruny Island, in south-east Tasmania, in the 1850s and 1860s. As a child, Cassandra didn’t know this woman was Truganini, and that Truganini was walking over the country of her clan, the Nuenonne. For nearly seven decades, Truganini lived through a psychological and cultural shift more extreme than we can imagine. But her life was much more than a regrettable tragedy. Cassandra has examined the original eyewitness accounts to write Truganini’s extraordinary story in full. Truganini’s story is inspiring and haunting – a journey through the apocalypse. Cassandra Pybus is an award-winning author and a distinguished historian. She is descended from the colonist who received the largest free land grant on Truganini’s traditional country of Bruny Island.

Van Diemen’s Women: A History of Transportation to Tasmania by Joan Kavanagh and Dianne Snowden. A record of Irish transportation and how the women who left shaped Tasmania. On 2 September 1845 the convict ship Tasmania left Kingstown Harbour for Van Diemen’s Land, with 138 female convicts and their 35 children. On 3 December, the ship arrived into Hobart. While the book looks at the lives of all the women, it focuses on two women in particular; Eliza Davis ,who was transported, from Wicklow Gaol, for life for infanticide, having had her sentence commuted from death and Margaret Butler sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing potatoes in Carlow. What emerges is a picture of the reality of transportation, together with the legacy left by these women in Tasmania, and asks the question about whether this Draconian punishment was, for some, a life-saving measure.

And also…

A list of TV series and films shot in Tasmania is here

Resource:  Just Tassie Books stocks and sells books written by Tasmanian authors, about Tasmania and about Tasmanians.    http://www.justtassiebooks.com/

Note: The above list is by no means exhaustive.  If you’d like to recommend a book or movie that you’ve enjoyed or found informative and inspiring, please email us at retreatrecreate@gmail.com