The woven tapestry, ‘Here we are sisters’ responds to the experience of working with artists from Bougainville, the Solomon Islands and Australia in a workshop held at Chabai, Bougainville for the Womens Wealth project initiated by QAGOMA for APT9, held in 2018-9. The project was curated by Ruth MacDougall and Sana Balai and designed to reveal the cultural value and cohesive power of women’s fibre practice in a society rebuilding itself after the devastation of the recent Bougainville crisis.
Three artists from Australia were included in the project, all with connections to PNG. As a child in the 1950s I lived with my family in Port Moresby, and two of my treasured possessions are Buka baskets made in the region and bought by my mother in 1957 to carry babies. She gave one to her sister in Australia to carry my cousin and used one to carry my sister. The power of textiles to signify familial and social connection underpins both the Womens Wealth project and my own practice as a tapestry weaver. The word ‘tapestry’ in the English language is often used to signify the integrity of the social fabric. The tapestry ‘here we are sisters’ begins with a comment made by Adelaide Mekea Aniona at the Womens Wealth Workshop.
Here we are not wives, we are not mothers or grandmothers, we are just women doing what we love to do. Here we are sisters.
By weaving the names of the participants woven in the colours of their clothing, the tapestry makes tangible the connection between the artists at the workshop, a connection based on their experience as women and their passion for making textiles, despite differences in culture and language.