Nawi canoe building workshop

Wednesday 26 February found the Australian National Maritime Museum’s Nawi canoe builders sharing their skills and knowledge with a group of young Koori boys at the Lawrence Hargrave School in Warwick Farm.

Curator David Payne with students Photograph, Donna Carstens, ANMM

Curator David Payne with students
Photograph, Donna Carstens, ANMM

The workshop was held outside on the outskirts of the school oval which was the perfect setting as we were surrounded by Australian Stringy barks and other eucalypts as well, the exact materials we were working with to make our smaller Nawi canoe model. The bush setting created a great starting point for conversation regarding the differences in the barks, the process of selecting the right bark, best times of year to collect bark, how the bark is removed from the tree and preparation of the bark so it is ready to work with.

Nawi workshop Photograph: Donna Carstens, ANMM

Nawi workshop
Photograph: Donna Carstens, ANMM

From there we moved onto the flat piece of bark that we had prepared earlier to shape into our model canoe. Once given the initial instructions the group wasted no time in getting stuck into the canoe building process. In fact they worked so well together the canoe was taking shape in record time and there was much discussion to be had. We looked at the type of modern tools we were using today to make our canoe and discussed what sort of materials would have been used originally from the environment to mimic these modern day tools. We also spoke about how the different materials used by certain clan groups would have helped distinguish which area they were from and what their environment was like. We discussed how long it would take us and how many extra people would have been needed if we were building a full sized canoe opposed to our smaller model. We all agreed that it would have been a long hot process and a lot more hands would have been needed for the construction of a full sized canoe, especially when it came to folding in and lashing the ends of the canoe.

Nawi workshop Photograph: Donna Carstens, ANMM

Nawi workshop
Photograph: Donna Carstens, ANMM

After two and a half hours of nonstop construction and hard work the group finished up with a beautiful one and a half meter Nawi model canoe which we took straight up to the school swimming pool to test out and much to the delight of us all it didn’t sink.The group have since put their canoe on display for the rest of the school to see and have created their own blog about the process and what the learnt. The boys have also just received an award from the school for their hard work and are very proud of themselves and their Nawi canoe.

Nawi workshop Photograph: Donna Carstens, ANMM

Nawi workshop
Photograph: Donna Carstens, ANMM

Donna Carstens
Manager of Indigenous Programs

4 thoughts on “Nawi canoe building workshop

  1. Pingback: Bark Canoe building at Bents Basin –a NPWS Sydney Aboriginal Community Cultural Gathering | Australian National Maritime Museum

  2. Pingback: Governor Phillip’s ‘Portsmouth Gig’ | Australian National Maritime Museum

  3. Pingback: January 26: One day, many meanings | Australian National Maritime Museum

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