Selling Yarns 2

Innovation for sustainability



Coiled! An exhibition of fibre work from south eastern Australia

Session: Museums as drivers for innovative practice Saturday 7 March 2009 9:05 - 10:30am

Lorraine Coutts

Roving Curator, Indigenous Cultures Department, Museum Victoria


This paper will discuss the exhibition and the role that fibre practitioners will play in the exhibition development process. Coiled! is scheduled to open at Melbourne Museum in 2011.

Museum Victoria has approximately 100 baskets in its collection. Works by highly esteemed artists such as the late Aunty Connie Hart and Aunty Thelma Carter are contained in the collections. Their work will be juxtaposed beside contemporary baskets in an exhibition on fibre work from south east Australia. The exhibitions message is about the importance of family, community and cultural traditions and knowledge.

The exhibition will focus on coiling; a technique that has a strong link to the traditions of south-eastern Australia. Coiling is used in the making of containers like baskets, eel traps and other carriers and mats. They were made variously by men and women, although fibre artists today are primarily women.

The technique of coiling used in making baskets, mats and other fibre forms has its roots in the cultural traditions of south-eastern Australia. Missionaries taught Arnhem Land women this technique in the late 1920s and 1930s, and consequently coiling has become a central component of fibre practice in Arnhem Land where it now has the greatest number of practitioners who apply the technique to their work. Yet in Victoria where it has had its roots, only a small number of Aboriginal women continue to make works using the coiling tradition.

To highlight these strong cultural family traditions, curators from Indigenous Cultures Department will endeavour to record oral histories; compile historical and contemporary artist bibliographies; photograph and collect contemporary baskets for the exhibition and the collection. Through a network of artists, museum curators hope to establish a mentoring program for emerging fibre artists.

Museum curators hope that this exhibition will inspire and educate audiences.

See also: Lorraine Coutts's biography