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Fibre art exhibition champions First Nations connections to water

long-water-2
A new exhibition at the CDU Art Gallery showcases First Nations people’s connections to water through fibre art. Pictured: Sonja Carmichael and Elisa Jane Carmichael with budjong dabiyil (mother water), Minjerribah, February 2020. Image: Rhett Hammerton.

A new exhibition at the Charles Darwin University (CDU) Art Gallery explores First Nations people’s spiritual, ancestral and physical connections to water through fibre practices.

Long water: fibre stories follow the fresh and salty waterways of New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory and the Torres Strait, and brings together fibre practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from different generations, experiences, places and ancestries.

The exhibition features contemporary fibre artworks by female artists from Yurruwi from Milingimbi Island in the Northern Territory, Yuwaalaraay in New South Wales, Quandomooka in South East Queensland, Kuku Yalanji in Far North Queensland, Zenadh Kes from Torres Strait Islands and surrounding homelands.

Curator of the CDU Art Collection and Gallery, Dr Joanna Barrkman, said the exhibition showcased the significant cultural importance of water and fibre.

“Water is a life-sustaining element that is central to human existence,” Dr Barrkman said.

“This exhibition highlights the spirited attachment by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to water and how it is interwoven with all other elements that sustain life, culture, identity and spirituality.”

Spanning different generations and ancestries, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women share an inseparable relationship to water, from the vast sea, inland waterways, to expansive river systems.

Water places have always been a source of vitality, knowledge and connection for people and culture, but they also are reflections of colonisation, difficult histories, and the pressing environmental concerns of today.

In long water, artists embed the links between water and weaving in intricate forms, layered prints, and spirited installations that are guided by ancestral memory and grounded in personal interpretations.

Long water celebrates the stories of regeneration and continuation of important cultural traditions, and the strong women and vital water places that sustain them.

This exhibition has been developed through relationships with artists and communities, particularly the Milingimbi Art and Culture Centre and Moa Arts.

It is curated by Freja Carmichael, a Ngugi woman from Quandamooka of Moreton Bay in Queensland, who focuses on collaborative curatorial approaches and the promotion and preservation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fibre knowledge.

Ms Carmichael will deliver a floor talk at CDU Art Gallery at 11am on March 24, about the history and development of long water by discussing three exhibition themes – deep connections, weaving memory and flow and change.

Long water: fibre stories will be displayed at CDU Art Gallery, Casuarina Campus from March 24 to July 9. The gallery is open to the public from 10am-4pm from Wednesday to Friday and 10am-2pm on Saturday.

The exhibition is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, Visions of Australia program and Strong Harvest. It’s supported by IMA Trailblazers.

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