Maitland Cultural Resurgence | Speaking in Colour

19 March - 15 May 2022

March 19 2022 — May 15 2022

Led by Cherie Johnson and the team at Speaking in Colour, Maitland Cultural Resurgence brings together Aboriginal cultural knowledge holders with schools and community groups in the production of possum skin cloaks and large-scale woven sculptures. These projects celebrate the ceremony of connectivity and cultural strength.


Inspired by the traditional practice of coiling with rushes, lomandra and other grasses, these contemporary artworks provide the opportunity for young people and community to explore traditional practices while making contemporary sculpture with contemporary materials.
These items were created as part of the Resurgence program, by a select number of students at each of their schools. Each program is run differently; some groups larger than others, some schools focusing on a stage or year, while other schools might have their Aboriginal students and a friend participate. By the end of the 10-week program each and every student has the ability to create a bracelet and/or coil. These are then collated and stitched onto the welded frame to create the form of the flora or fauna.
I would like to honour and thank my weaving teachers Aunty from Gumbainggir country who taught me string bags with stringy bark, I never knew your name but you will forever be in my heart, and Aunty Ellen Trevorrow of the Ngarrindjeri people who taught me coiling with rushes. As a result of these ladies entrusting me with this knowledge, I have been able to share and teach others, including all the teachers who have delivered the Resurgence program for Speaking in Colour.
– Cherie Johnson


Possum skin cloaks are utilitarian objects. Starting as a baby blanket, three pelts are sewn together with kangaroo sinew to create a warm and soft blanket. Over the years, the blanket is added to. With each new pelt, images are burnt and scratched into the underside of the leather creating a personal story.
Ochre mixed with a resin is painted onto the leather recording the owners belonging and connection to Country. Over time, as the pelts grow, the blanket is transformed into a cloak, leather side out in wet weather or for warmth when cold. In Wonnarua country many people are also laid to rest, wrapped in their possum skin cloak.
Generations have shared and worked collectively on these cloaks and for some participants this may have been their first opportunity to do so. It has been our absolute honour to teach whole communities this process of cloak making; however, it has only been made possible by learning under the guidance of my senior cloak makers Aunty Vicki Couzens and Lee Darroch who have been instrumental in this cultural revitalisation movement.
– Cherie Johnson