Lorraine Connelly-Northey / Narbong 2009 / Corrugated tin with pigment and fencing wire / 135 x 63 x 20cm / Gift of Anne Best through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: QAGOMA / © Lorraine Connelly-Northey

Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Narbong 2009

Not Currently on Display

Lorraine Connelly-Northey uses cast-off materials to produce baskets and bags that radically revision the past. Her use of metal, mesh and wire, in combination with feathers, shells and echidna quills, expresses an Indigenous history coexisting with a settler colonial society.

While remaining respectful of past generations, Connelly-Northey scales these bags beyond a manageable size to emphasise their cultural status: they become a commanding presence, impossible to ignore. Features of familiar landscapes are reflected in the striated patterns, patinated surfaces, textures and angles of her sculpted narbongs.

Her narbongs are illusory, though. Ripped and ruptured, they have no practical use, yet harmony is achieved through the textures of fragile, rusted metals. Though traditional bags are no longer used for hunting and gathering or ceremony, Lorraine Connelly-Northey’s narbongs recall times when they were essential to the plentiful, elegant, artistic life lived by her ancestors.

Of Waradgerie and Irish descent, Lorraine Connelly-Northey was born in Swan Hill, in north-west Victoria, where she continues to live and work.

Her approach to basket-making blends skills and attitudes inherited from both parents: the resourcefulness and thriftiness of her Irish father, and the traditional weaving practice inspired by her Aboriginal mother. Connelly-Northey replaces traditional weaving materials with found objects — metal wire and sheets of rusted iron, as well as feathers, stone, wood, bone and shells.

Connelly-Northey recreates the material culture of her ancestors while retaining the beauty of the original material, and in doing so celebrates the resilience and the strength of Aboriginal people.