[WORLDKINGS] Traditional clothing from around the world – P66 - Possum-skin Cloak: A fur coat symbolizing Aboriginal warriors from Australia

04-03-2021

(WorldKings.org) Possum-skin cloaks were a form of clothing worn by Aboriginal people in the south-east of Australia – present-day Victoria and New South Wales.

Once an everyday item for Aboriginal people in south-eastern Australia, possum skin cloaks were worn for warmth, used as baby carriers, coverings at night, drums in ceremony and for burial.

 

 

Worn from a young age, cloaks started out small with a few skins sewn together to wrap a baby. Over time, more skins were added so that as a person grew, their cloaks grew with them.

The cloaks were made from numerous possum pelts sewn together with kangaroo sinew, and often decorated with significant incisions on the inside such as clan insignias. They were rubbed with ochre and fat to both decorate and protect them.

 

 

In the mid-1800s, British colonies across the south-east distributed woollen blankets to local Aboriginal people. Many began using government issued blankets rather than their possum skin cloaks. Woven wool blankets, however, were not as effective as possum skin cloaks. They were not as warm nor were they waterproof and offered little protection from the cold and wet winters of south-eastern Australia. During this time, many Aboriginal people became ill and died from common European colds and influenza viruses.

 

 

Only a handful of possum skin cloaks made prior to 1900 still exist today, preserved in museum collections held in Australia and overseas. The scarcity of old cloaks is due both to their fragility and purpose; they were designed to be used during the lifetime of their owner and often as a burial wrapping.

As well as being a significant means of keeping warm in this often chilly part of Australia, there was much importance around the making of the cloaks and their wearing. They were handed down through generations as heirlooms. As with most Australian Aboriginal belongings, there were many uses for the one thing – the cloaks were also used as blankets, mattresses and to wrap babies.

Today, possum skin cloaks remain important to Aboriginal people across the south-east of Australia with new uses and contemporary ways of making.

According to en.wikipedia and aiatsis.gov.au


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