1384.6 - Statistics - Tasmania, 2005  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 22/04/2004   
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Lola Greeno is a visual artist and shell necklace maker living in Launceston.

My island life has had a huge influence on me as an artist. I was born and grew up on Cape Barren Island as one of the younger children of my Cape Barren Island family of seven brothers and two sisters, before moving to Flinders Islands where I married and had a son and daughter.

I can just remember walking to school on Cape Barren. It seemed to be so far and take hours, but I have since returned to the island to measure the distance by car and found that it is only about 5 kilometres.

As we walked to school, we also kept an eye on the plover birds swooping down around us. Our school on Cape Barren Island was one big room, and it is still the same today, although the door has been moved to the end of the building and the veranda is built in for craft and cooking sessions.

The children on Cape Barren Island walked to school from three different directions. We walked from the eastern direction, which seemed like half way down the Island. We often dawdled on the way home to stop and pick She Oak Apples, Pig Face or tater vine plants. We were also warned to beware of the wild cattle that may stray on the road and we knew to climb a tree if we saw cattle heading towards us on the road.

Once we were home we were expected to contribute towards household chores. The boys helped gather wood whilst I watched the cow being milked and went with Dad to the vegetable garden. Mother always seemed to be busy cooking, washing and walking to the Corner to collect us from school and to get the mail from the mail boat once a week.

I can remember all the family packing up and travelling by boat to mutton-bird season on Big Dog Island and Babel Island with a number of other families. I can recall going though a stretch of sea called the pot boil and hanging on to the edge of the boat hoping I could stop the boat from rocking backwards and forwards so much that things were falling over and rolling from one side to the other. It was nearly impossible to stand up in these conditions.

During the mutton-bird season the families worked very hard for six days and the seventh day was to clean up the shed and cook house and then go for a walk to visit other birders’ sheds. This time of the year was often used to get together socially and fish off the rocks near the birder sheds. Most sheds were situated close to the beach mainly for loading the processed mutton-birds.

We lived a hundred metres from the beach on Cape Barren Island. My brothers and younger sister and I spent a lot of time on the beach, in fact it was probably hours. We measured the time to be home by the tide. We used to go at low tide to collect shells, shellfish and the boys fished off the rocks. We had to be home before the tide reached the beach for us to walk around the rocks, otherwise we had to climb over the big rocks to get on the track to our house.

Women often came to visit my mother on a Sunday. We went walking with our elder women to collect shells for the shell necklaces, and I looked on when shell necklaces were made. We talked about how we could vary the patterns with the shells. My mother told me that my grandmother also made shell necklaces. A church minister came to the island to purchase necklaces for a few shillings, money that helped my mother to support the family with food and clothes.

In later years mother and I designed necklaces and exchanged shells with each other, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that we made shell necklaces for a show in Queensland. That was our first show together, and the one that exposed our necklaces to the mainland public.

My cultural shell necklaces will always be influenced by my life growing up on the islands. I aim to continue the work my mother and I started to assist my island community to reflect on their history, place a value on the necklaces and encourage the maireener shell necklace makers to preserve and protect the significance of the necklaces to Cape Barren Island women.