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Home » Water in a Dry Land: Place Learning Through Art and Story » Creation: Treahna Hamm

Creation: Treahna Hamm

#Map 8: Baby Cloak

Imagine the river
without a map
having it in your head
that’s how people
found their way
if they got lost
the little ones would start
with a small cloak
as they got older
they could come along
with it on
just throw it down
and talk with the mob
this is my country
where I come from
you could wear it as a cloak
and use it as a map together.


I’ve been connected
from an early age
could feel the bond
under the soles of my feet.
I was adopted
was back on homelands
didn’t realise how important
until the Mission thirty years later
saw my Nan’s cousin
rubbing the soles
of her great-grandchild’s feet
talking about the importance
of the soles of our feet on the land.

I was taken off her
the day I was born
my Mum and Dad came down
to pick me up
I’ve got two identities,
two people, two families.
I was drawing ever since
I could hold a pencil and
a hundred and fifty kilometres upstream
from where my family was
it’s always been art and the river.

‘It was all about having your individual story and also in another sense, if they’re all together and they’re all similar, it’s like family stories as well. I put groups together which represent bone, stone, and wood … in a land/cultural-based context where it’s more fluid, collections of thoughts or memories, fragments, remnants, it’s all joined up anyway’.

Watching Treahna etching fine grasses with a nail mirrors this process of deep symbolic representation in which the surfaces, the skin of country is everything, but its meanings lie beneath in the layers opened up between the body consciousness of artist and of country.

Weaving the River

Fifty women in a get together
we start weaving
we’re all talking
the words going into the stitches
that little turtle could be
a twenty minute conversation
you pick up something cultural
you take that into another turtle.

The smell takes you back
to the river
and the touch,
you can be at the river
where you belong.

I’ve done a lot of turtles
that’s reinforcing
my identity to myself
it’s not just a turtle
it’s my totem
ancestral connections
from the river, the reeds,
stitches mean family
it’s the connection the turtle has
between water and land
symbolises family, land, and life.

The turtles are to do with
the High Court transcripts
everyone’s got their stories
identity is like the long neck turtle,
we’re one people
that’s our tribe
we all move in different directions
and the turtle shell’s
in the background
we’re one.


Biaime sent the old woman
down from the alps
she walked along
and she created
a line in the sand
from the alps right down
to the mouth of the river
where she fell asleep
in a cave down there
whenever you’re there
you can hear the sea
it’s the old woman
singing in her sleep.

I remember the last time we met at the airport on our way to Wilcannia, and I was again terrified for the life of that little baby, Eva Luna, the baby of the moon, my moonbaby. Treahna says the baby is going to be alright, she, and the other women who travel with us are the Aunties. She tells me to massage the baby, especially her feet, and talk to her about the birds. The birds who come to visit the ledge outside my window in that time of terror are the ancestors looking after us.

The baby cloak holds all the tenderness of that time, the strength of the bond between us. At the top in the centre an elongated oval shape with a thick outer rim, a pale red ochre womb space. Protected within, are the symbols of the ancestor birds, the leaf growth of new life, and a nurturing breast. The passage leads to the bottom of the cloak where it merges into river patterns of moving waters, into the flow of water and of life.

This material is an accompaniment to Water in a Dry Land: Place Learning Through Art and Story.