Sunday, 21 September 2008


Recently at the Indigenous Moorditch School here in Middle Swan we had a series of fodder classes with teacher Todd Israel and a group of assistants..
Amongst the very lively group was Joyce Winsley's son who is the cross cultural co-ordinator for the school and his daughter, (Joyce's grandaughter) both making grass figures. Father made a series of men and a kangaroo using grasses (fodder ) and cloth and wool. Daughter made an emu using fodder and wools.
He is going to show the boys at the school how to make figures. It is very exciitng and wonderful that a senior man has developed these powerful small figures.
He already plans to make a whole series and is up to number 7 now
His mother would be very happy for him...

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Local abundance.

Three small stories.
Well 33 on the Canning Stock route. Kunnawaritji, this remote community, recently held a gathering of womrn to further develop the Canning Stock Route Project. Grass basketry was on offer as a diversion from painting. Local grass was harvested from the dry dune country. However the women did source and use discarded meat pie tins as bases for their baskets.
At the well itself, there is a large water hole thickly banded with a type of juncus, a long narrow pliable leaf. This would be a sustainable basketry material as it could be cut off with a knife at the base rather than pulled as the grass is.
After four days making there was a colourful collection of baskets using the holed meat pie tins as bases.
Further south in the wheatbelt, the source of fodder, the Nyoongar commumity of Badjalling held a small festival.
This is quite nearby Joyce Winsleys country.
i hoped the women may be intersted in fodder.However it was the young people who cut the strings on the bale of meadow hay and spent the day making grass manguries, fibre circles wrapped with recycled textiles.
In time perhaps some of the local women will be drawn to making fibre craft works from their abundant supply of sustainable materials.
Following Badjalling a group of indigenous women from Carnavon have established themselves as basketmakers. They have been collecting grasses from the land, grass which is tough and quite difficult to access.
Carnavon is bananas, enormous plantations line the banks of the Gasgoyne river where it enters the sea.
For this group of women to use the trunks of banana palms seemed such an obvious solution.
So the trunks were collected and dissected longways into quarters. These were dried over 3 months or so. Then during a weeks workshop the women made baskets and fibre sculpture with the dampened strips of banana fibre. It is soft and malleable and a pleasure to handle. Wool and recycled textiles were used for sttitching, weaving etc.
It is a sustainable and local material.
These three events show how I am very gradually trying to encourage use of sustainable fibre and recycled materials.
Previous to each of these events I held a workshop in Hobart where we also used fodder, the women involved had great fun for 4 days and eagerly divvied up the leftovers to carry home.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Fodder figure's

These small figures have been made by children during a Todd Israel workshop.
Fodder fibre is used for the foundation and then it is dressed/ decorated using recycled materials to become a puppet.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Other materials for making

The hair arrangement by the newly married zulu woman... by understanding structure and looking carefully I was able to work out how it was constructed and maintained and I stand corected if it is not so.
The question ,'what other materials may be available to use' . The craft consumer in South Africa has been trained to expect refined, well made objects whether it be a telephone wire basket, a straw broom, a carved animal or an exquisitely beaded necklace .
Not only do the consumers but also the makers have the same high standards of what craft should aspire to.
The use of 'feral' materials, and there will be some, takes a long time to explore and then 'tame' to a standard of acceptance.
At the Phansi Museum in Durban there are original works that were used within a culture. Many of those pieces were quite freely constructed, not necessarily made to last and certainly using much recycled material particulalrly textiles..
If the contemporary makers were able to view those collections then I feel that they may percieve other materials which could be used.
It would be wonderful if an exhibition of such objects could be taken on a mobile tour to villages where the makers could have a very close look at them, even handle them. Many people will never have seen the older crafted objects in a non confronting enviroment.
This would lead to exploring materials which may not have been considered, particularly manufactured materials.
It seems hard to imagine any materials that have not yet been eyed off.
However there in the Drakensburg the women had not shredded up mealie bags which have endless thread in them so it is possible.
In Australia we have hardly scratched the surface in the use of fibrous materials from recycled sources for making. Happy days to come.
The image is Heather's cloak made from hand made string of red hot poker leaves then the string was netted to a cloak. shape.
Corn husks could be used in a similar manner.

Friday, 11 January 2008

'inhoko' unravelled?

The mystery of the 'inhoko' is that the woman's hair is carefully braided and extended then the globular arrangement is established. Finally the supporting bands circle the stem of the enormous bulb. As the womans hair grows another band is added to support and incorporate the new growth.
Any curls which grow free of the arrangement are plucked out hence the hairless area above the forehead.
It would give its owner an amazingly strong neck for life.
I am wondering if it is also used to contain small treasures.
The wearing of beanies by many of the Australian desert women is both for comfort and a place to store money.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

sustainability?=corn husks

Thanks for those thoughts on hair. In New Giunea certain men make a whole head of hair from their plucked and saved hair and then it is worn on special occasions. It indicates a certain level of maturity and access to mens rituals. It fits on the head like a bycycle helmet and it probably just as protective.
It is often hightly decorated with colourful flowers, feathers, fruit, anything at all.
Live hair carries the power of the wearer but once it has become detached from the owners body then it takes on meanings of extremes. This image is a hair vessel using 18 years of saved hair and stitched with fine linen thread.
However corn husks which should be abundant in South Africa given that corn is the staple are a very sustainable fibre.
The husk is peeled and dried then it can be dyed or left natural, then shredded into working strands 2 or 3 centimetres broad.
Dampening it for use makes it easy to manipulate.It is equal to any other fibre and cost would be zero.
Perhaps it is already in use but I did not see it as such. I have suggested to Hlwenge Dube to encourage some of the women to experiment with it. Women crafters in Soweto would have access to corn husks and mealie bags for stitching.
Native American women have used corn husks for baskets, masks and other paraphanalia for generations.
So perhaps we will see more corn and less husks in the near future.
Meanwhile it has been a bumper year for Fodder after the drastic shortage of it last season and I am about to collect some high quality bales from a farmer in the south.

Hair and there

Sorry, Nalda, for not responding in recent times. Now that I'm out of Craft Victoria, I have a little more freedom to follow this interesting train of thought.

It seems that one of the marvels of fodder in South Africa was to be able to make art from a material so easy to access. This is a strong feature of art and craft in southern Africa.

What other materials might nature provide? I was talking with Hlengiwe Dube about the Zulu attitudes to hair. She told me about the remarkable practice of Zulu women on marriage to have their hair woven into a headdress (inhoko), which is kept for life.

I was talking about this to my hairdresser today. She was saying that all hair, regardless of race, must grow. So I wonder how this is maintained over time?

The inhoko has now evolved into an artificial headdress. The particular weaving structure has developed from the way hair was braided.

This evolution makes you think how various hair crafts might translate into other artificial materials.

Just around the corner from me is one of the many African hair braiding shops that have opened in recent times. Perhaps I should ask them?