First Nations adornments informs others who we are, where we are from, and what our relationships with Country are. Written by Sara Kianga Judge, neurodiverse Walbanja-Yuin woman.
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First Nations adornments are much more than just jewellery. What we wear lets others know who we are, where we are from, and what our relationships with Country are.
A person from the desert would wear different kinds of adornments to a person from the coast, because those places are different and have different stories. We listen to what each adornment says and carefully choose how they are made and worn.
Imagine gathering in a big group of people who have come from many different places.
As a saltwater person from the coast, my adornments might be made of ocean shells. A freshwater person who lives near rivers and wetlands might be adorned in freshwater mussel shells. We might both be wearing seeds, but of different kinds.
Maybe we meet with our friends and they are wearing different kinds of shells and seeds to what they were wearing when we saw them last, because the materials available for making adornments has changed with the seasons.
All of these adornments of different sizes, textures and colours would not only look different, but sound different too. As people walk and dance, the different shells and seeds rattle together so that each person makes the sounds of their own Country. The differences can be subtle, but when we listen carefully, we hear our Country in our adornments and Country hears us too.
The look, feel, and sound of our adornments lets Country and others know who we are, where we are from, and what’s been happening around our homes.
In many ways, adornments are like an introduction or a greeting we give when meeting with someone new or someone we haven’t seen for a while. They are an important connection to our Country and family connections – when we are at home, but especially when we are away from our home.
What connects you to your home and family? How do you express your connections and listen to them?