Protecting kanalaritja: A both-ways approach

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Findlay, Elisabeth A

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Finn, Bianca R

McGregor, Carol A

Gall, Alana

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Members of my Pakana (Tasmanian Aboriginal) culture adorn themselves with kanalaritja, which are necklaces traditionally created from shells that are strung on sinew or twined fibre and, more recently, on other forms of string or line.1 Our palawa kani (Tasmanian Aboriginal language) word kanalaritja is used interchangeably for the method and the final product. Since invasion and colonisation, along with the impact of the Industrial Revolution, our once pure milaythina (Country) is being destroyed. Our forests are being cut down, our middens are being devastated, and our culture as a whole is under threat of extinction. Added to this devastation are the negative impacts of climate change, which are affecting all humankind, especially Indigenous cultures globally, who have been forced to adapt to these ongoing changes.2 My research explores the destructiveness of climate change and the likely negative impact this has on elements of my Pakana culture. The research is informed by published data on climate change and its impact on the environment, as well as by firsthand accounts from Pakana shell stringers who practice kanalaritja today. After enduring the attempted physical and cultural genocide of colonisation in Lutruwita (Tasmania), my people now face further cultural loss through the subjugation of climate change. Primarily practice-led, my research sits at the cultural interface3 of Pakana culture and science and Western science, drawing on elements and expertise from Indigenous Knowledges and modern technological sciences. My work is grounded in my Pakana culture and knowledges. It informs all aspects of what I do and how I do it; my thinking around what I do and how I problem solve and innovate; and the motivations and driving forces behind my work. At the cultural interface, where tension lies for me and my Pakana community, I am able to draw on modern technological sciences interwoven with Pakana ways of knowing, being and doing to protect kanalaritja. My research demonstrates both-ways learning and practice,4 evidencing that cultural practices can be successfully combined with modern technologies, and challenging pre-existing societal assumptions of culture and its knowledge as being inherently ‘traditional’—only formed in the past. This thesis presents my research that uses a both-ways approach, the meeting of my Pakana cultural knowledge with modern technological sciences, to develop an adaptation that aims to protect our Pakana cultural practice of kanalaritja in the face of climate change.

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Thesis (Professional Doctorate)

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Doctor of Visual Arts (DVA)


Queensland College of Art

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The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.

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climate change

Cultural continuity


palawa kani language T16


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