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Paul Kropinyeri


Paul grew up In the fringe camps along the Murray River, particulary at the Flats at Waikerle, Wellington Ferry near Meningie and right up the river to Albury.

Paul Kropinyorl's extensive knowledge of Ngarrindjeri life comes from his mother Flora Kropinyeri and her peers and elders. Important among these were Albert Karloan (one of the last initiated men of the Murray River) Dick Kropinyeri (Grandfather) Sox Hunter (Uncle) Mick Lindsay (Uncle) "Sticky" Edward Lindsay and Ted Rigney.

Like many Aboriginal children, Paul was taken away from his mother and placed in a home. As a young man he travelled extensively, enjoying the many employment opportunities that were around in the 1960s. Eventually he joined the Army and served two terms (four years in all), after which he worked on the railroads.Soon he began travelling again,spending time in the north west of Western Australia before he returned to the south west wheat belt to work on stations, in forestry and eventually with
the Water Board.

In 1977, he ended up in Point Pearce, where he eventually convinced the Education authorities in Adelaide to employ him as an education worker. He became South Australia's first Aboriginal Education Worker.

It was in this capacity that Paul renewed his intense interest in traditional Aboriginal culture.On the weekends he would go out and talk to the old Ngarrindjeri people, reviving his language and picking up stories and skills.Unfortunately most of the old people Paul learnt from during this time have passed away. Uncle Ted Rigney told him much about the life of the fringe camp dweller sof the lower Murray River. Dick Kropinyeri ("Old Mutti") showed Paul the different layers of the river gum bark that you need to be aware of to successfully take a shield from a tree.

In the early 1980s, Paul made his first artifacts, initially trying boomerangs. However,as many people made these, he decided to try to re-create the traditional bark shield of the Ngarrindjeri that he had seen in the South Australian Museum and that had last been made by Clarence Long of Raukkan (Point McLeay) in the 1930s.
Paul perfected the art of making bark spear shields and has found a good market for them internationally with museums and collections. His success with the techniques of shield making opened up the possibility of making a canoe, which calls on the same basic methodology but on a much larger scale.

Paul now lives at Berri on the Murray River, where he makes traditional Bark Shields, (he is the only contemporary craftmen who makes these) paints and writes down the stories of his people. Paul is intimately involved with Ngarrindjeri Language maintenance projects. Most days he heads off to the river for fishing or to get materials for his crafts.