Friday, 20 May 2011

Fibre with a Difference: Tiwi Designs

In 1996 and 1997 my beloved and I found ourselves living in Singapore. This was our first time leaving North America and the experience changed us forever. Singapore was both amazing and difficult. The food was delicious, the plants and trees were lush, and the public transit was efficient and affordable. On the downside: we were visible minorities and as a result we paid more than the locals and we received more attention than we were used to. My beloved and I are fair and tall and we towered over the petite Singaporeans. I'm a redhead and this was another novelty for the Asian population who consider red to be good luck. Our eyes were opened and now we have a better sense of what it feels like to be a visible minority.

Singapore is a major travel hub and with some research, travelling to neighbouring countries can be inexpensive. To take a break from sticking out like a sore thumb and to buy clothes in Western sizes, we popped over to Australia two times. On our second Australian adventure we flew from Port Douglas to Darwin and from there we took a short flight in a tiny airplane to Bathurst Island. As a textile artist, I had heard about the Tiwi and Bima textile workshops on the island. Above is a coiled mat made by an artisan from Tiwi Designs. The subtle colour shifts and organic shape are pleasing to the eye. The artisans are of Australian Aboriginal descent. According to the website: "Tiwi Design has become an intrinsic part of the Aboriginal art and craft industry in Australia. The organisation continues to support traditional and contemporary art practice, working with highly skilled artists to express their culture." In 1997, Bathurst Island was isolated and mostly wild -- an ideal environment for preserving a culture. 

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