Lorraine Connelly-Northey / Waradgerie* people / Australia b.1962 / Narrbong (String bag) 2007 / Rusted gauze wire with white pelican down / 24.5 x 10 x 10cm / Purchased 2008. The Queensland Government’s Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Lorraine Connelly-Northey

*Waradgerie (also known as Wiradjuri) is the artist’s preferred spelling

Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Narrbong (String bag) 2007

Not Currently on Display

Lorraine Connelly-Northey’s work pays tribute to her culture by recreating time-honoured Aboriginal objects, such as narrbongs, in non-traditional materials (narrbong means string bag in the Wiradjuri language).

Connelly-Northey explains her approach as a blending of the skills and attitudes of her parents: resourcefulness and thrift inherited from her Irish father, and traditional weaving inspired by her Aboriginal mother.

She creates carry bag designs, traditionally made from various grasses, using rusty metal sourced from dumps. Her materials and forms interweave the history of the occupation of Aboriginal land with the fences creating divisions in the Australian landscape.

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.

Discussion Questions

Connelly-Northey recreates traditional Aboriginal objects using recycled materials. Her artwork can be seen to celebrate the resilience of Aboriginal people and their culture. How do the materials used by Connelly-Northey contribute to the message of her artwork?

Classroom Activities

Investigate the structure of a simple basket that you would like to make. Collect a range of natural and recycled materials suitable for weaving and decorating your basket. In the classroom, make a display of your finished baskets, and create a label for each one explaining the story of the object through its materials.