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Coolamon / Chewmot

Date: c 1990 - 1991
Dimensions:
Overall: 81 x 372 x 170 mm, 0.4 kg
Medium: Wood, ochres
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © Gordon Watt
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Coolamon
Object No: 00015744
Place Manufactured:Mornington Island

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    Description
    A coolamon (chewmot) from Mornington Island. A chewmot is a medium sized coolaman which could be used by women to carry babies, bush food and even water. It is a rectangular object which curls up at the sides, concave in shape, painted with ochres and depicting various marine life including fish, crabs and stingrays. Coolamons were not always decorated.
    Language: Lardil.
    Significance‘My country is where the unseen people live, short people.’
    Gordon Watt, Gununa artist

    HistoryTo continue the Australian National Maritime Museum's involvement with the Mornington Island community who were involved with the making of the raft in 1987, curators asked the chairman of the local council to talk to the older residents about what sort of objects would have been used on the raft. The Chairperson, Nelson Gavinor came back with a list of objects he said were like the a kit. These objects, including this chewmot, were a bailer shell (00015745) digging stick (00015747), dilly bag (00015749), fish net (00015748) and a spear thrower (00015746). Of these objects only a few are still being used.
    The objects are painted with the names of the seasons.The Lardil people did not use the names 'Autumn or Spring' but called the seasons by certain foods. A season was named after what was collected, eaten or was plentiful at that time. So that someone would say 'My child was born at turtle time' .
    A coolamon was treasured by women. Everything was carried in a coolamon, even children. To carry a child in a coolamon made the child's back grow healthy and strong. As the child grew out of one coolamun, its mother would make a bigger one, or chewmot.

    The rafts, or walpas, assocaited with objects such as this were small and not very stable. It required a great deal of skill to cover any great distance at sea.The walpas became water logged after a few hours of exposure to water and had to be hauled up and dried out. This then, limited the distances that the traveller could cover without contact with land.The walpas were therefore used chiefly to 'island hop' over short distances.
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