Culturally marked trees take pride of place in More Than a Tarrang (tree): Memory, Material and Cultural Agency Exhibition

Museums-Victoria-More-Than-a-Tarrang-(tree)-Memory-Material-and-Cultural-Agency-photo-by-Eugene-HylandBringing together rare Ancestral belongings and artworks from Museums Victoria Collections with new artworks from senior and emerging artists, More Than a Tarrang (tree): Memory, Material and Cultural Agency is now on display at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre – Melbourne Museum.

The exhibition shares the significance of trees in south-eastern First Peoples cultures and the continued practices of mark-making and design. In an Indigenous worldview, trees are reminders that knowledge is alive in Country, they have agency, and exist in a reciprocal relationship with humans and the non-human through a system of relationality – they are kin.

“Through considering Trees on country, in collections and the many systems of knowledge and cultural practice they embody we can renew story for the exhibition brings together these Ancestor objects, whilst creating contemporary works that have an informed duality that critique colonial legacy but also go beyond the colonial centre to focus on the continuum of connection and existence that reaches back to country and community,” said Kimberley Moulton, Senior Curator South Eastern First Peoples Collections, Museums Victoria Research Institute.

“The significance of community having access to collections is immeasurable and through this exhibition we see the ongoing links the artists have to these cultural belongings, and they generously offer new story for them.”

More Than a Tarrang (tree): Memory, Material and Cultural Agency is a collaborative project co-curated by Kimberley Moulton, (Yorta Yorta), Senior Curator South Eastern First Peoples Collections, Museums Victoria Research Institute, Dr Jessica Neath, Professor Brian Martin (Bundjalung, Muruwari and Kamilaroi), Wominjeka Djeembana Indigenous research lab, Monash Art Design and Architecture, and Professor Brook Andrew (Wiradjuri, Ngunnawal), University of Melbourne.

The exhibition includes new artworks by Brian Martin, Brook Andrew, Moorina Bonini, Maya Hodge, Brad Webb, Uncle Greg Griffiths, Uncle Alfred Priestley, N’Arweet Carolyn Briggs, Simon Rose and Deep Design Lab.

“We are very proud to welcome this extraordinary and evocative exhibition to Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, co-curated by Kimberley Moulton” said Museums Victoria CEO & Director Lynley Crosswell.

“By providing the space and recognition for these ancestral belongings and exquisite artworks, which draw a vital cultural connection between the ancient and the contemporary, this exhibition is testament to Museums Victoria’s commitment to placing First Peoples’ living cultures and histories at the core of our practice.”

Taking pride of place in the exhibition is a fallen tree, Yalukit Weelam Tarrang, that has two marks where bark was removed to create tools, such as coolamons and shields. In 2020 N’Arweet Carolyn Briggs, David Tournier, Brian Martin and Monash University salvaged the tree and brought it to Monash Faculty of Art Design and Architecture to be cared for and used as a teaching tool.

“These trees aren’t scar trees, that suggests a wound or violence. They are marked trees by our Ancestors that reference a complex matrix of relations to Country, community and culture.” said Professor Brian Martin.

“This tree is evidence of our Old People’s occupation and culture,” said Boonwurrung cultural practitioner David Tournier, who found the old eucalypt. “Of our culture being practiced and being alive.”

The exhibition features 25 cultural belongings from Victoria and New South Wales, some are the earliest in the collection c1840, many of which have never been displayed before. Commonly registered as ‘unknown’ maker or only known in the context of their collector, little cultural information of their designs or maker is known. So many of these were created for everyday use, and are meant to be touched, sung to, carried and remade.

During the development of the exhibition, senior practitioners have mentored younger ones through the guidance of Elders and Traditional Owners. They have spent time in the collections of Museums Victoria and at collections in Geneva, Basel, Berlin and London, as well as time on Country listening to trees, walking along waterways and regenerating knowledge by tracing connections between trees, cultural materials, people, language and place.

More Than a Tarrang (tree): Memory, Material and Cultural Agency was developed by Wominjeka Djeembana Indigenous Research Lab at Monash Art Design and Architecture and Museums Victoria. Additional funding provided by the Faculty of Art Design and Architecture at Monash, City of Melbourne Arts Grants, the University of Melbourne, and the Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative.

More Than a Tarrang (tree): Memory, Material and Cultural Agency
Melbourne Museum, Nicholson Street, Carlton
Exhibition continues 5 November 2023
Entry included with Museum entry

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: More Than a Tarrang (tree): Memory, Material and Cultural Agency (installation view) – photo by Eugene Hyland | Museums Victoria