Day 2, making strings, and learning about corkwood


we went to collect a young Brown Kurrajong, Commersonia fraseri, also known as Black-fellow’s Hemp, as it was extensively used as a source of fibre.
The branch is pounded with a rounded stone to facilitate the separation of the inner bark. You need to pay attention to not break the fibre in the process. The inner bark is then stripped into thin strings.
Via a process of opposite twisting (you took recording of the process, soon enough you will upload a short video of it) you make long strings.
The very strong strings would have been used as fishing lines, after a further treatment with tannins to make them waterproof and preserve them from deterioration. For this purpose it was used Geebung bark (Persoonia spp.).

The stripped branch of Commersonia is then used as a fishing spear, for that reason is usefull to select a straight tall tree, and also for allowing the processing of long fibres.

We also located and looked at Corkwood, Duboisa Spp., used extensively through-out Australia as a source of narcotic-like drug. A Duboisa hybrid is currently cultivated for the harvesting of a derivative of scopolamine, which is the main active ingredient of the drug butylscopolamine, a potent analgesic and antispasmodic.


Here there is an image of the bark of Corkwood, which explains the naming, being very similar in consistency and appearance to the Quercus suber, commonly called the Cork Oak, from where the common corks are derived.

We have been putting together an impressive library over here for the purpose of this Bundanon-specific ethnobotanical investigation, here below is a list we continuously cross-reference with:

Plants of western NSW, by G.M. Cunningham, W.E. Mulham, P.L. Milthorpe and J.H. Leigh, 1981, NSW Government pubb.
Bush food, by Jennifer Isaacs, 1987, Weldons pubb.
Bush tucker, by Tim Low, 1989, Angus & Robertson pubb
Native plants of the Sydney district, by Alan Fairley and Philp Moore, 1989, Kangaroo press pubb
Bush medicine, by Tim Low, 1990, Angus & Robertson pubb
Native plants of Sydney, by Les Robinson, 1991, Kangaroo press pubb
Wild plants of Australia, by Tim Low, 1991, Angus & Robertson pubb
Travelling with Percy, by Lee Chittick and Terry Fox, 1997, Aboriginal Studies Press pubb
Sail and steam on the Shoalhaven, by Russ Evans, 2005, Shoalhaven Historical Society pubb
Murni, Dhungang, Jirrar | Living in the Illawarra, by Sue Wesson, 2005?, a free publication downloadable from here.

We are also studing historical accounts of early settlers for hints on uses of botanical species, like The diary of Jack Weir, 1928-1933

About info

Diego Bonetto is a multimedia artist living and practicing in Sydney, Australia, and is a key member of artists' collectives SquatSpace and the BigFAGPress. -The SquatSpace collective has been producing ground-breaking events and projects since 2000. The group has been curated in a number of shows both in Australia and overseas. The current initiatives, the Redfern-Waterloo Tour of beauty ( tackle issues of social representation and the politics of space generated by gentrification. -The BigFagPress (BFP) is a publishing facility housed in Wooloomooloo, Sydney. The BFP is a salvaged 4-tonnes Off-set proof press. The press allows for the creation of countless artworks by keen printmakers and self-started publishers. Diego has also been working with WeedyConnection, an environmental art campaign. The project involves an online resource (, short documentary films, cooking shows, blogs, installations, prints, facebook interventions and various site-specific installations in the form of self-guided tours. WeedyConnection tackle the anthropocentric view of what environment should look like. Based on research and data provided by disciplines as far apart as biology, anthropology, paloenthology, social ecology and ethno botany it formulates ethical questions about cultural representation in times of environmental urgency.
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