Weaving Woman by Kuku Yalanji artist Genevieve Stewart is a powerful statement on memory, resilience and strength of First Nations peoples, focusing on a cultural practice that historically was forbidden by colonial governments.
Highlighting the direct link between culture and identity, Genevieve explains: “Weaving Woman weaves herself, using the practice she was once not allowed to be taught, a practice that stems from her literal existence, to now after resistance she is rebuilding herself, her confidence and identity and to proudly show off her existence to the world.”
Legislation in colonised Australia aimed to control First Nations peoples, alter our identity and destroy our connection to culture through deeming cultural practices illegal. However, despite every attempt to the contrary, First Nations people and our cultural practices survived and continue through the courage of weavers, language keepers and knowledge holders who taught culture in secret; sneaking stitches of speargrass and whispering words in language at night.
A direct response to participating in weaving workshops with Elders, Weaving Woman provides a deeply personal account of Genevieve’s culture and identity, the beauty and importance of culture strengthened with every basket stitch and each stroke of bold black ink. Weaving Woman is the journey of reconnecting with culture and finding yourself.
By Jodie Dowd, AM First Nations Cultural Collections Officer
Weaving Woman was acquired for the First Nations Cultural Collections at the Australian Museum and will be on display in Unsettled from May 2021.
This article first appeared in Explore magazine, Winter 2021. View the whole issue here.