I am a big fan of the Museum of Brisbane (MoB) in Brisbane City Hall, as my regular readers know. Here is another exhibition you may like: carriers of memory. This FREE exhibition presents new acquisitions by First Nations artists. Featured artists are Kim Ah Sam, Kyra Mancktelow, Sonja Carmichael and her daughter Elisa Jane Carmichael. It is presented by the Museum of Brisbane in collaboration with Quandamooka curator, Freja Carmichael. It is being held in the lovely Adelaide Street Pavilion in the MoB from 19 June 2021 to 18 April 2022. I hope you go along and check it out.
Freja Carmichael said that this gathering of women's work celebrates the power of First Nations art as a continuing presence of culture. "The featured fibre and textile-based works are grounded in the widespread practice of weaving. The use of materials and techniques woven, and the forms created, evoke memory and experiences of people and place across time. Across the space, the works resonate with one another: prints are about history and weaving; weavings are about stories; stories are an ode to ancestors and Country, and Country is embodied in each work. This collection lives beyond the gallery into the world. In making and sharing, artists regenerate and reaffirm the links between the past and those to come. "
Featured Artists. Sonja Carmichael (Ngugi people of Quandamooka): Sonja said of her work, "The bangil came from my mother's place where she lived in the Elders' cottages at One Mile, Goompi (Dunwich). The strength of our elders and ancestors are embedded in Quandamooka Country. This bangil is strong like my mother and our ancestors." Her collection of baskets honours the strength of ancestors and the beauty of place through weaving. Each basket is bangil (grass) collected from Goompi (Dunwich) that has been stripped and prepared into thin filaments. The bangil is concealed in the works by coiling over with commercial raffia combined with fine strands of unravelled ghost nets and fishing lines. The disguised internal strength of bangil is metaphoric of the presence of people and place. The shimmering blue, yellow and green from the ghost net marine debris evokes the sea, sand and land of her Quandamooka Country. Sonja and her family collect discarded netting, ropes and materials – flotsam and jetsam that that drifts in seas, that kills marine life. Using the marine debris protects saltwater fish and animals and adds to the important ongoing care for Country.
Kyra Mancktelow (Ngugi and Nunukul people of Quandamooka and Mardigan people of Cunnamulla): "These well-used dillies call to the historic nature of a useful item while presenting a contemporary physical existence," said Kyra. Her prints, "Yesterdays Today", express the adaptability of First Nations cultures through the creation of new artefacts woven using traditional techniques but with contemporary materials and forms. Her collection references the significance of traditional Indigenous woven bags (dilly bags). For Quandamooka Ancestors, woven bags were an important part of daily life. They were used to carry, store and protect belongings. Kyra applies Quandamooka string-making techniques by spinning the inner bark of talwapin (cotton tree) into sturdy filaments of string to create handles. Reclaimed found materials such as discarded fabrics are then used for the body of the bag. The physical forms are then covered with ink and pressed onto paper to create images. In this process, she moulds the shape of each bag and string handle to evoke the used nature of the items. The string is the foundation in this work, metaphorically carrying the weighted vessels that represent both a contemporary experience and historical significance.
Elisa Jane Carmichael (Ngugi people of Quandamooka) Our old bags are in museum collections on the other side of the world. But through weaving and remembering, their spirit travels across the waters to make their way home," said Elisa Jane. Over many years, Sonja Carmichael has researched examples of gulayi (Quandamooka women's bags) kept in museum collections around the world. She collaborates with her daughter to regenerate Quandamooka techniques with ungaire (swamp reed). In this work, the contemporary making of gulayi is extended into image-making by the cyanotype photographic printing process. Contours of the flat bag float across a landscape of deep blue, a colour that is inherent to cyanotype techniques yet also recalls the impressions of Quandamooka sea Country. The gulayi are accompanied by silhouettes of large commercial fishing nets, and shellfish and seafood that are shaped to reference a midden (feasting site). Balgagu gara (come celebrate) highlights the value of cultural material and reflects on the times when traditions, ceremony, Country, food sources, spirituality and family were sadly denied to previous generations. Illuminating the abundant food sources from Country and rich cultural practices of weaving, her work commemorates a gathering for past and present Quandamooka.
Kim Ah Sam (Kuku Yalanji people and Kalkadoon people) "Through exploring expressive ways of presenting landscape in a variety of media, I reinforce how art can be a way of reconnecting my cultural identity with Country," said Kim. Kim's weaving communicates a strong sense of self and belonging to Country. Working with her inherited techniques of weaving and combining this knowledge with an array of natural and contemporary fibres and media, she shapes expressions of culture and identity. Like undulations of the landscape, a woven journey resembles forms in nature rising gradually in scale. The three sculptures feature complex weaving patterns that flow and mirror moving rivers, tracks along the land, or veins running through the body. For Kim, the process of capturing strands together into bundles and forms is a metaphor for processing fragments of history, allowing time to think reflectively and restore her relationships with the land.
Director Renee Grace (May Cross)
Renai Grace, Director/CEO, Museum of Brisbane said, "Museum of Brisbane is proud to present this exhibition and to share the incredible skill of the makers involved. We are grateful for the curatorial involvement of Freja Carmichael in developing carriers of memory, providing to the exhibition a depth of research and understanding."