Collection Online

Figures in possum skin cloaks

pencil, wash, charcoal solution, gouache and earth pigments on paper
57.0 × 88.8 cm (image and sheet)
Accession Number
Indigenous Art
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1962
© Public domain
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Vizard Foundation
Gallery location
Gallery 13
Level 3, NGV Australia
About the work

Wurundjeri artist and Ngurungaeta (headman) left an indelible record of his culture in a corpus of 50 or so extant drawings, produced during dangerous times of traumatic social upheaval and dispossession for his people.

Figures in possum skin cloaks 1898 shows men engaged in a ceremonial procession. Though the patterns Barak depicts on their cloaks are reminiscent of the marks carved and burned into Aboriginal artifacts, his viewpoint is striking and unusual. As we view the men from behind, we are witness to the patterns on their cloaks that are similar to those carved and burned into Victorian broad shields. These designs are worn as markers of identity, and are firmly linked to the paen (freshwater) of Barak’s father’s Yarra country.