Weaving Stories, is a major collaborative fibre art installation for the biennale created by Indigenous weavers from many Murray River nations. Weaving Stories will represent each of these nations in the Biennale exhibition through the unbroken threads of many stories woven together in a narrative of the Murray River and its people.
Each of these distinct Indigenous nations brings its own culture, stories and character to the project using native reeds, grasses and other found materials from their region to create an interwoven installation of living culture along the Murray River.
Artists: Master Weavers: Clair Bates (Paakantji, Mildura) | Bronwyn Razem (Gunditjmara, Geelong) | Ellen Trevorrow (Ngarrindjeri, Coorong) | Glenda Nicholls (Waddi Waddi/Yorta Yorta/Ngarrindjeri, Swan Hill) | as well as: Tina Doolan (Paakantji, Mildura) | Charlie Davis (Awakabal, Mildura) | Samantha Doolan (Paakantji, Mildura) | Jennifer Bates (Paakantji, Mildura) | Debra Rankine (Ngarrindjeri, Coorong) | Jelina Haines (Coorong) | Alice Abdulla (Ngarrindjeri, Coorong) | Anne McMahon (Coorong)
Led by master weavers: Clair Bates (Paakantji) in Mildura/Wentworth; Ellen Trevorrow (Ngarrindjeri) in the Coorong; Glenda Nicholls (Waddi Waddi/Yorta Yorta/Ngarrindjeri) from Swan Hill, and Bronwen Razem (Gunditjmara), the central shared vision articulated at the first Mildura workshop in February was a belief in the importance of representing the river as a continuous life force, which has sustained many generations of people of many Indigenous nations across all time. This now includes peoples who have arrived from more than 60 countries across the globe who also depend on the river to sustain their lives.
A series of weaving workshops is being held along the river to which all nations are invited. The opening workshop in Mildura in early February was hosted by the Murray Darling Dreamtime Weavers, led by master weaver Clair Bates and was attended by 21 weavers and was the first occasion in memory when senior women from so many nations have gathered together to work towards a shared goal of telling the story of the river and its people. The next workshop was held at Camp Coorong in SA in mid-April and be led by renowned Ngarrindjeri weaver Ellen Trevorrow. In July a third workshop was held in Mildura this time led by master weaver Glenda Nichols who taught a specific technique used to make fish nets. A fourth workshop was also hosted by the Coorong weavers in August.
Weaving has always been an important way of keeping in touch with and maintaining the health of the river through the process of collecting reeds. The river’s environmental degradation has an impact on the availability of traditional reeds used for weaving and the great majority of traditional foods. Environment, culture and food are intimately connected. The Murray & Darling Rivers are like the kitchen, the centre of food production and life, the place where people gather, and the installation will reflect the many changes that have occurred in the way that people now nurture themselves and their culture.
The Weaving Stories installation will contain many woven objects and figures created individually and collaboratively. At the heart of the installation a single large collaborative piece will be created in the traditional ‘all hands on’ manner. This piece unites and contains the installation representing the unbroken thread of many stories woven together.
We are connected by the river in all time, our histories are interwoven with our futures. This hands on project is a material manifestation of global intercultural contemporaneity. Weaving Stories will culminate in a major intercultural contemporary artwork for Mildura Palimpsest Biennale #10 which celebrates the many Indigenous nations living along the Murray & Darling Rivers.