Vicki Couzens - Paint the Country [detail] etching on paper

Ochre pits

The ochre pits of Bayside provide one of the most direct links to the culture and history of the Boon Wurrung. The pits provided them with a palate for art, especially for the live body art used in dance and performance.

Ochre was gathered at Sandringham and Beaumaris and prepared for several purposes including sacred ceremonial customs, art and celebration events such as the Ngaregee. The ochre used by the Boon Wurrung was an important part of maintaining customs and oral history and providing a focus for entertainment and enjoyment.

Early European settlers were invited to performances at the Ngargee. The dances of the Boon Wurrung were spectacular and unique to their culture; the men using ochre to paint circle patterns around their eyes.

The dance was conducted at night, backed by a large bonfire to illuminate the performance and to provide an exciting atmosphere. As the flames sparked from the green eucalyptus leaves, the drumming of the women intensified, the rhythm beat faster and pace of the men intensified.

Artwork: Paint the Country, etching on paper, by Vicki Couzens, Bayside City Council Art and Heritage Collection.

Page last updated: 10 Dec 2010