Cultural Connections: Women’s Weaving Camp

Cultural Connections is a project partnership between IACA and the National Museum of Australia (NMA). The Cultural Connections Program has partnered with local land councils, shires, and arts and cultural organisations to support community-led projects that strengthen local cultural practices and knowledge transmission.

Many of IACA’s member artists feel that traditional weaving skills from their region are being lost. Enabling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practitioners and communities to develop and/or share their cultural knowledge, histories and stories in a way that is meaningful to them, the Cultural Connections program supported IACA to deliver a women’s weaving cultural maintenance camp.

In preparation for the camp, six artists and artsworkers from Hopevale Arts & Culture Centre and Bana Yirriji Art Centre (Betty Sykes, Anne Nunn, Sonya Creek, Hannah Gibson, Delankah Ross-Hart & Kian Bowen) travelled to Brisbane for some firsthand research into fibre artworks in the museum and gallery collections. 3 weeks later, coinciding with National Reconciliation Week 2021 the weaving cultural maintenance camp took place located at Billy Boil Camp on Binthi Warra Country (near Hopevale).

During the camp the women went on multiple gathering excursions for bush materials, harvesting the grasses, pandanus leaves and roots used to dye the natural fibres. Once back at the camp, there was a great exchange of knowledge around processing the bush materials as well as instruction and demonstration of critical traditional weaving skills. IACA staff took photographs while videographer Alex Smee captured the action and commentary of the women, resulting in high-quality documentary records of the event that will create an important cultural archive for future generations. Additional to the intergenerational skill sharing of traditional weaving techniques, weaving facilitator Aly De Groot introduced some contemporary weaving skills which everyone was happy to try out. The whole week led up to some gorgeous weavings being created and some very happy women!

“You know, it's best to take it back down to Wujal and show the kids as well as younger ladies… I'm really keen you know, I can take this back. As soon as I get the hang of it from the start to the end I'd like to show the younger ones in Wujal.” Betty Sykes (Bana Yirriji Art Centre)

“Well to me, I think it's very important that we share this knowledge, it is very important that our culture don’t, you know, die out. I got a niece who wants to learn, well I like to share a bit of knowledge to young ladies and other old ladies. You gotta go for it, never stop, see your talents and never give up. Be proud of who you are as Indigenous people.” Florence Williams (Bana Yirriji Art Centre)

Well, I taught my niece how to do it she knows, but she's working in the Kindy. But as for the other kids they just, they just won't come and learn. Yeah, I just like the young people to come up and learn. You know, it's our culture so keep it alive. Otherwise they won't know how to make baskets and dilly bags and all that.” Wanda Gibson (Hopevale Arts & Culture Centre)

“Well, I made a basket. And I enjoyed myself here. And I know how to make, you know, these wonderful things taught us here, it was so exciting. I loved it. I'll be making these alright yeah. I'm gonna make some and sell them for money. I'm gonna go flat out do it. I know it now, I'll go all the way.” Gertie Deeral (Hopevale Arts & Culture Centre)

Special thanks to the artists and staff of Hopevale Arts & Culture Centre and Bana Yirriji Art Centre, weaving facilitator extraordinaire Aly De Groot, videographer Alex Smee of Multi Story Media, volunteer Prema and all the wonderful Billy Boil camp support crew. Thanks again to the National Museum of Australia for their vision in recognising the vital need to support cultural maintenance.

Camps like this are really important and regular ones that set aside the time and allow women the opportunity to get away from their busy lives.. there's a need to recognise the importance, maybe opportunities and jobs for women as teachers to share that knowledge and for it to be validated and recognised like that. To give them the respect that they deserve because they are living treasures.

Aly de Groot Weaving facilitator

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IACA programs and events receive financial assistance from the Queensland Government through the Arts Queensland Backing Indigenous Arts initiative, from the Federal Government’s Ministry for the Arts through the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support program, the Australia Council for the Arts and Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund - an Australian Government initiative. IACA supports the Indigenous Art Code.

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