Yii guuyang wuba gurambak banya, wuba Gathang-guba barray. Nyiirun wuba yii guuyang; nyiirunba Gathang girrang birriwal.
This is canoe made from the bark of the blackbutt tree, made on Gathang Country. We have made this canoe; our culture is alive and strong.
On 20 May 2012 at Bungwahl, for the first time in over 150 years the guuyang builders,1 led by Steve Brereton, a Warrimay (Worimi) man, with strong connections to country and culture took a canoe from Gathang Country. After years of research, it was an exciting day for community to create a canoe from Country.
For thousands of years the people of the Gathang speaking nation made and used canoes from Stringy-bark and Blackbutt trees to explore the waters around Forster and the Wallis Lake system, the Manning, Hastings and Wilson River Systems. Examples of canoe scar trees can be found in these coastal areas.
The selection of a tree to create a guuyang is very important; the tree must be straight, large and free from knot holes, cracks or disease. The group chose a Blackbutt which easily came away from the tree and had no marks or cracks. The sound of the bark coming away will always be remembered by those present. The group then heated the bark and folded the ends to form the canoe shape while securing the ends with stakes and vine using traditional local methods. Clay from Tobwabba (meaning ‘place of clay’) was used to plug the ends and to create a fire mound in the canoe.
The canoe was officially launched on Sydney Harbour in May 2012 at the Australian National Maritime Museum’s NAWI Indigenous Watercraft Conference complete with fire and cabbage tree palm paddles. This historic event celebrated the strength of culture and the resilience of First Nations people.2
Author: Rachel Piercy
For more information about the Gathang guuyang contact the Manning Regional Art Gallery: https://mrag.midcoast.nsw.gov.au/Home
Gathang canoe project presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohkywS-Gdms
The process of building the Gathang guuyang: https://vimeo.com/64348167
* Gathang is the language spoken by the Birrbay, Guringay and Warrimay peoples. Guuyang means canoe in Gathang.
1 Steve Brereton and Rachel Piercy would like to thank the Worimi community for their support in this project. In particular the following Community members and guuyang builders:
Aunty Lynette Davis, Uncle Lane Simon, Graham Shillingsworth, Marcus Rowsell, Michael Brereton and Kirrilli Davis, Noel Piercy, and Mandy Davis.
2 Rachel Piercy, Gathang Guuyang:The long history of bark canoes in Gathang Country, 2012.