Shell-string twisted on flat surface by Dulcie Greeno, made of stripy buttons, marina and rice shells in Launceston 2016

The Museum of the Great Southern is proud to host a national touring exhibition about shell-stringing; one of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community’s culturally significant and closely guarded traditions.

kanalaritja: An Unbroken String from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) features a variety of beautiful, delicate and rare shell necklaces, created by Tasmanian Aboriginal Ancestors in the 1800s, acclaimed makers of today, as well as a new wave of stringers.

Museum of the Great Southern Regional Manager Rachael Wilsher-Saa said kanalaritja is a stunning display of traditional practices being passed on from generation to generation.

“Pierced shells from Tasmania’s west coast have dated the tradition of shell-stringing to at least 2,000 years ago,” Ms Wilsher-Saa said.

“The Museum is privileged to host an exhibition that shares a community’s celebration of culture and understanding of the sea.”

Since 2010, TMAG has worked with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community to facilitate a number of luna tunapri (women’s knowledge) workshops in which women in the Community – who had not had shell-stringing passed down through their families – were guided through the intricate processes of collecting, cleaning and stringing.

TMAG Director Janet Carding said building on the overwhelming success of the luna tunapri project, the women aspired to share their journey with the wider public, leading to the creation of kanalaritja: An Unbroken String.

“Shell-stringing has never before been the focus of a touring exhibition, nor comprehensively documented in a dedicated publication,” Ms Carding said.

“Importantly, this is a project that has been led by the Community and I would like to acknowledge those involved for allowing us to share their story.”

kanalaritja: An Unbroken String is accompanied by a dedicated publication featuring a range of essays and photographs, aiming to build awareness and provide a definitive account of the unique cultural practice of shell-stringing. Resources have also been developed for teachers.

kanalaritja: An Unbroken String will be on show at the Museum of the Great Southern from 19 October 2017 until 28 February 2018. Entry to the Museum is by donation.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government’s Visions of Australia program.


Media contact
Sharna Craig
Media and Publicity Officer
Western Australian Museum