Coreen Reading

Ribarrmatha - Mourning - 2021

40 x 50 cm

Acrylic on canvas board


"Ribarrmatha is to mourn for our people and our losses.  We have a practice within our Wellesley Islands community that is now called 'Squaring up'. This act involves visiting the closest contact of the recently deceased, and expressing our condolences. To 'Square up' is the respectful way to acknowledge the loss of the loved ones, as well as put all differences aside and be at level with the family experiencing the loss. We will visit the family, based on the most significant person i.e., mother, partner etc. We will line up and individually take turns to hug and cry with the significant family member. Then we will sit together and mourn, crying until all tears are shed. We hug and hold each other, crying for the loss of the deceased, the loss of all relationships and experiences that have been, and for those to come.  We cry for them, we cry for the family and friends, and for ourselves, until we are completely drained and exhausted of all tears. In this process comes healing. It is about acknowledging the pain, letting your entire being (physical, emotional and mental) experience the pain. Once all tears are shed, we may then sit and speak of the deceased; sharing wonderful experiences of the past. Ribarrmatha or squaring up is about healing together, and being supportive towards the family. I believe it as more empathetic than sympathetic in nature; an attempt to level relationships and heal together.  Unfortunately, as we modernise, these cultural practices are not as common as they used to be. Our younger people may not realise the benefit in sharing grief, and I find this concerning. Hence this painting shows how linking each other in support, we are in a better position to avoid falling into the dark abyss that is grief."