We acknowledge Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land and give respect to Elders – past and present – and through them to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
93/332/1 Basket, eel trap, sedge rushes [Lepidosperma canescens], made by Yvonne Koolmatrie, Murray River, South Australia, Australia, 1993. Click to enlarge.

Eel trap by Yvonne Koolmatrie

In recent years, a number of Aboriginal people have been reviving traditional 'craft' practices and sometimes adapting them for sale. Since 1982, Yvonne Koolmatrie (born 1944) has been involved in reviving the basket making traditions of her Ngarrindjeri people on the lower Murray River region in South Australia.

Koolmatrie's elongated cylindrical eel, fish and yabbie traps of sedge rushes (Lepidosperma canescens), acquired by the Powerhouse Museum through the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative in Sydney, are modelled on traditional forms of functional objects used by the Ngarrindjeri people, such as fish traps. The technique of binding a coiled bundle of rushes with a 'button-hole' loop stitch has not only survived, but has evolved since the 1940s and is now used to create innovative shapes such as these woven traps. Koolmatrie first learnt basket making techniques at a workshop given by Dorothy Kartinyeri in 1982. Since then, she has invested her work with greater significance, in which the threatened Murray River, or Murrundi as it is known to the Ngarrindjeri people, remains a constant source of inspiration.

The coiled baskets are made from dried sedge rushes which Yvonne Koolmatrie collects from a particular site, the location of which she will not reveal. As well as using these sedge rushes to make both functional and decorative, almost sculptural objects that include aeroplanes and turtles, Koolmatrie also teaches weaving and basket making as she feels strongly about passing the tradition on to others. Her work was shown in the South Australian Museum's important exhibition, 'Dreamings: the art of Aboriginal Australia' held in 1988.


Object No.


Object Statement

Basket, eel trap, sedge rushes [Lepidosperma canescens], made by Yvonne Koolmatrie, Murray River, South Australia, Australia, 1993

Physical Description

Conical trap, constructed from dried rushes using a coiled basketry weave. Widens to large, splayed opening at one end, small circular opening at opposite end.



980 mm



South Australian Premier's Award for Lifetime Achievement: Yvonne Koolmatrie



Exhibited 3-26 June 1993 at the Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Paddington in 'Yanada New Moon', an exhibition co-ordinated by the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative. Previously exhibited March-April 1993 at the Contemporary Art Centre, Adelaide in 'Murrundi: Three Murray River Stories'.


Credit Line

Purchased 1993

Acquisition Date

14 September 1993

Cite this Object


Eel trap by Yvonne Koolmatrie 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 5 March 2021, <https://ma.as/134233>


{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/134233 |title=Eel trap by Yvonne Koolmatrie |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=5 March 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}