Unthreading the Weaving Stories

Unthreading the Weaving Stories

Traditional Indigenous lore was not documented in writing. Instead a living collective memory was created, personified in the oral story, the song lines, the ritual, the dance, and or carved and painted through regional symbols on the escapements, the caves, in the sand, the boulders and the trees within Country.

Much of cultural matter was outlawed and often in the past there has been many misunderstandings lost in translation. The mapping of Country is constructed in varying ways. The retelling throughout aeons of oral story has shaped what is often referred to as the ‘dreaming’- it is not fixed nor is it a myth. There are the designs that once were visible and practised daily on our Country.

It was a delight to talk with so many women who have navigated so many obstacles, mind, body and soul, now rejoice and be thankful for the space to weave. Their weaving reflects the power of the markings. Designs that once were visible and practised daily on our country. The linear lines, the tally grooves, and styles of the old patterns distinguishing the water courses, mountains ranges, the wooded forest, the people’s scarification, the wind direction and the patterning of ochre applied to our bodies for ceremony, all define us.

In our weaving circles there are those elders who join the practitioners, respected for their observance of everything, sharing stories of changed times, their lived experiences. Armed with a strong cup of tea, they impart nuggets of gold. Our elders play an important role in the gatherings: sharing the use of the materials, where they grow, how to harvest and use them, the forbidden places we should not visit and places of cultural significance. It’s these accounts that are so etched into the landscape you are amazed you did not ever see it until you are told.

In the past our ancestors’ stories and understandings have laid dormant, our old people protected knowledge until the time was right for the retelling and re-learning, they needed to be safeguarded. Now our song lines, spirits, energies, stories and the knowledge is being reawakened and publicly practised, valued, exposed, and shared rather than outlawed. Our landscape is such a big part of who we are. Walking it, using material gathered to weave new objects based on age old traditions constantly connects us to the ancient country of our ancestors.

There has been such a progression of weavers creating an immersion across the region and a new momentum, nationally, and so the next logical step was to tell their stories and why they have unwittingly created a new movement often with great humility.

With a published book capturing of all the elements, associated with weaving supported by Arts Northern Rivers, is a wonderful tangible offering and again gives enormous value to our practitioners.

We wanted a publication that recorded and shared the revitalisation of an age-old practice, a story capturing diversity of lived experiences and cultural values from a woman’s perspective. Understanding these unique weaving techniques of the Bundjalung nation was formed over time through the collection of oral stories, memories, exhibitions and collected museum materials. As well as the anthropological, archaeology and archival documents that had been written at the time. This unravelling has now influenced design for the present-day women who continue weaving based on a collective dedicated knowledge and passion.

Our inherited birthrights have found a place in this publication, personal and cultural stories are woven through the gathering of the weavers and we do need to ensure everyone gets to read about the sovereign Grandmothers, sisters, aunties, partners, the mothers of our nations – who in the 21st century are regal, commanding, and humble, they all carry united values, importantly those of repair and pride.

By Rhoda Roberts AO © 2022

Image | Rhoda Roberts AO filmed by Robert Sherwood. Watch Full Video Here