Paula Savage basket, Image: Moa Arts

Moa artists embrace new possibilities through their weaving

At Moa Arts, momentum has been gathering in a number of creative areas this year. While weavers of Kubin and St Pauls communities continue to work to improve the quality and complexity of their bags and baskets, they are also thinking about new ideas and the ways weaving can continue to develop as a creative cultural practice.

In March, thanks to a small grant from the Queensland Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women, the women of Moa Arts organised a community weaving and dyeing project as part of Queensland Women’s Week 2020. Women of every generation from Kubin and St Pauls communities came together as a group to celebrate their achievements, to share stories and reflect on the important role they play in keeping families and communities strong.

From these gatherings, the women began a project which involves the collective weaving of a large basket. The woman are taking turns to work on different parts of the basket as it moves progressively from house to house. In its own small way, this project is helping keep the community strong and demonstrates a new way to work creatively during these difficult times.

In other news, Paula Savage and Fiona Elisala Mosby have been developing work for an exhibition about traditionaland contemporary weaving which will be held at the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane.

Paula Savage’s woven works capture the forms and colours of the reefs, shorelines and seas around Mua and push against the limits of what we know about Zenadth Kes weaving. Using hand dyed raffia and sea cord, and with a strong foundation of traditional weaving techniques, Paula has stepped away from purely functional forms to give the baskets more freedom to grow and develop according to what is possible rather than what is expected. In this way her works are often more like coral and sea sponges than baskets. They seem to suggest that if cultural traditions are the beating heart of island life, then the natural world is a basket of ribs that hold everything in place.

In the same spirit, Fiona Elisala Mosby has produced two series of mono-prints that are a radical departure from traditional printmaking techniques. Inking up pandanus leaves and woven mats and running them through the press, the prints move in multiple directions at once and take the raw materials and objects of weaving and put them directly into the process of printmaking. They use a two-dimensional process (printmaking) to talk about three dimensional cultural practices (weaving). They also remind us that traditional knowledge is always strong enough to be interpreted in new and innovative ways.

There is an exciting energy and a growing self confidence among Moa’s artists and weavers, and a willingness to experiment and play. Their work is a testament to the possibilities of weaving, and what can happen when you are willing to take chances.

Recent work by Fiona Elisala Mosby and Paula Savage will feature in ‘longwater: fibre stories’ at the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane, opening December 5, 2020. Touring nationally in 2021-22.

There is an exciting energy and a growing self confidence among Moa’s artists and weavers

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Main image credit: Paula Savage basket, Image: Moa Arts

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