Thursday, 23 July 2015

Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation

This exhibition does have not much in the way of textile work - not surprising as the culture of indigenous Australia has no tradition of cloth making.  From what I understand, clothing is either from animal skins or in the form of body adornments and decorations.  However this exhibition does include some weaving in the form of basketwork. It is an interesting exhibition, beautifully displayed and informative, but also controversial.

This exhibition is an opportunity to learn about cultures very different from Western society. The narrative itself appears fairly comprehensive, starting with information about the landscape and its importance to the indigenous people. Artefacts are used to explain traditions and ideas that are culturally important, and I was pleased to discover that an Indigenous Tasmanian was the curator. The exhibition also touched on controversial topics relating to colonialism and post-colonialism, although not in any depth.  The exhibition has sparked a debate on repatriation.

The very last item in the exhibition was a basket woven by Abe Muriata, an indigenous Australian who learnt from watching his grandmother weave as a child, but also by examining historic items in a museum to understand traditional techniques.  The question the visitor seemed to be left with was that without museums displaying such objects, would these techniques have been lost?  Without such displays would we have any understanding of other cultures?  

The exhibition continues until 2 August 2015 at the British Museum, London.

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