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Milerum making his war basket

Milerum

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Milerum, a Ngarrindjeri man, known to the British and German settlers as Clarence Long, was born around 1869 on the Younghusband Peninsula. Milerum’s parents lived in a traditional way, hunting and gathering food until 1875. His father moved from hunting as a way of life, to driving oxen for a settler farmer. Milerum’s father moved wool to the market to be sold.

Milerum was 6 years old before he met Europeans. This was when he was first given European clothes, so that he could play with the white settlers’ daughter. Milerum became a shearer. Milerum also became known for being good at learning languages; he learnt English quickly and helped to record several Aboriginal languages. His work has helped to preserve Aboriginal languages, so that we still have the languages today.


Watch basketmaking movie
Milerum travelled across to Adelaide in summer and spent time at the South Australian Museum, where he made baskets and wooden weapons. Milerum also sang and told the stories of his people in his own language; some of these stories were recorded on film by the anthropologist Norman Tindale, who worked at the museum. Tindale recorded Milerum making a sedge basket that was decorated with the feathers of the Boobook owl. Milerum believed that the Boobook owl feathers protected him as it was his ngatji, which in the Ngarrindjeri language means closest friend.

Milerum’s war basket

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Milerums’ war basket, or karu paraki, as it is known in the Ngarrindgeri language is made from a plant called sedge, a reed which grows around waterholes and creeks. Norman Tindale, who travelled Australia recording information about Aboriginal language groups, made a film showing how the Ngarrindgeri man Milerum, makes his war basket. The technique Milerum used to make the war basket is called ‘coiled basketry’. In this method of basket making, a coil of fibres is stitched together forming the foundation for the basket. Then the basket maker stitches coils that go outwards to make a mat, or upwards to make a basket. Milerum added Boobook feathers to his basket. He believed the feathers from the Boobook owl gave him protection, as this was his ngatji.

Image 1
© South Australian Museum

Video 2
Video of Milerum, a Ngarrindjeri man, making his ‘warbasket’
Norman Barnett Tindale Collection, Basket-making, Coorong, South Australia, 1937.
© South Australian Museum

Image 3
Milerum’s war basket
‘War basket’ or ‘Karu paraki’ made of sedges by Clarence Long from the Lower Murray River in South Australia in 1937. The basket was worn with a hair string sling. Long believed the decorative feathers from the boobook owl gave him protection as it was his totem.
© South Australian Museum

Image 4
Courtesy of Australasian Bird Image Database

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