Ngarrindjeri Basket Weaving Retreat 2

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On the second day of the retreat, we went on a field trip. We went to collect ‘the rushes’, a native sedge that grows in wet areas.  Each–leaf?– is cylindrical and perfectly shaped to be used for basketry.  Here is the place where we gathered rushes for weaving (they will be used in the future, while we wove with rushes gathered and dried previously).

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The sedge in question has a three-pointed tip, and tiny sedge plants begin to grow at the end of each rush until they weigh it down to ground level where they can take root.  Plants are so extraordinary!  We learned about how Ngarrindjeri gather/ed the rushes and encourage/d them to thrive and how colonisation and the weeds and land practices that came in its wake have affected their availability.  It was a privilege to hear stories of people’s lives and families, as well as receive instruction from those who know. The retreat had begun with a brief history of the wider picture of suffering, family dispersal and cultural disclocation wrought by colonisation in this specific part of the country, as well as the present and future for Ngarrindjeri people, who are actively involved in revegetation and cultural renewal.

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On the way back we stopped at Meningie, looking out over the Murray River. Different kinds of rushes grow here and there is a set of interpretive signs about Ngarrindjeri history, culture and futures, in which the weaving plays a central part.

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From Meningie we went back to Camp Coorong and returned to our weaving. I learned three different starts for a basket (oval, round and square), as well as the main weaving stitch and how to create handles, finish off, and shape a basket.  We made some small pieces to be part of a larger collaborative piece. That might be my square start in front.

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There were a lot of experienced weavers at the retreat from different traditions as well as some like me with little experience.  There were Indigenous women there from many generations and from different places.  Some women had come a long way to have the privilege of learning from the Ngarrindjeri aunties. And they were fabulous, patient instructors.  As always, it was a treat to be a learner. But the straightforward and understated, but completely direct way Auntie Noreen patiently corrected me and set me on my way was a special treasure in the way of teaching.

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There were plenty of interesting conversations and plenty of different perspectives on culture, tradition, basketry and life.  And spectacular food as well! I made a somewhat misshapen basket, but it is certainly a basket.  I also made a somewhat more skilful disc–I love the way when you are starting to learn you can see your skills leap forward!  On the final day I put it down before lunch and never saw it again.  I assume it accidentally went to another home, but happily, with someone who can finish it.

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A lot of people grow the sedges for weaving, and I have come home with some in pots ready to plant and some more just beginning. Here they are sitting in water to grow roots (my bathroom is a strange but wonderful place, evidently).

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I have examined my neighbourhood and discovered one patch of these sedges and many more patches of a different sedge that the  weaving book says is also used (though less desired) for the weaving. I will research whether my suburb is a suitable place to plant more or whether these will go into the garden rather than the neighbourhood. Meanwhile, sedges are drying in the lounge room…

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22 Comments

Filed under Basketry

22 responses to “Ngarrindjeri Basket Weaving Retreat 2

  1. I have so enjoyed reading your posts about the Ngarrindjeri Basket Weaving Retreat – so much to learn here, even for people like me, many many miles away. thank you.

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  2. I have a close up of that circular sculpture from Meningie as my iPad home page. A beautiful quotation. Lovely post again. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Keryn. I am not surprised you would choose that image as one to see often. There cannot be too many reminders that everything is connected in this world.

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  3. thank you so much for this

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Susan

    You are so blessed to have this experience! AND new plants haha

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Did you get the scientific name for the sedge? I’d be interested to see if it occurs in thr eastern states.

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  6. PS more info please on how you are finding spinning the reeds on your wheel.

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    • Spinning the reeds on my wheel? This, I haven’t tried 🙂 I did try making string by hand though!

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      • On my feed, there is a picture of twisted reeds on a bobbin, so I assumed that you might have being trying that out. Maybe you were storing them there? Or have the gemlins taken over your blog?

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      • True?! I was having a moment of wondering how you could have any idea about the latest manifestation of strange spinning at our place. I blame gremlins. I have been spinning plant fibres, just not the sedges from the workshop… I have no idea how a photo in an unpublished draft post gets into your feed unless the gremlins are responsible. More on that image soon, I promise 🙂

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      • I know that sometimes it seems to pick up images from the media bit and put them at the top of a post when, like you, I haven’t posted them. Must be a wordpress speciality. 😊

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      • Yes, I’ve noticed this on the interface I see when I am looking at drafts. But not the rest of the time 🙂

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  7. sedges help us read (no pun intended) our bit of country…as signposts to the soggy bits!
    local advice used to be to grub them out. happily there’s been some enlightenment since those days.

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