The Allure of Textiles

In 1998 the National Gallery of Victoria staged a major textile exhibition entitled Raiki Wara: Long Cloth from Aboriginal Australia and the Torres Strait which toured to three interstate venues. Visitors to the exhibition were surprised by the beauty and visual power of the works. The Age newspaper entitled its article on the exhibition 'Social fabric', alluding to the communal interaction involved in their surface decoration. This title also captures the audience's reaction - the gallery was always filled with noise. The Sydney-based artist Bronwyn Bancroft, a founding member of Boomalli, noted that she "did textiles to give all Aboriginal community members access to a cheaper piece of art work that they could wear or put on their walls". The Raiki Wara exhibition proved to be a significant vehicle in igniting a broader understanding about Indigenous Australian textiles, an area that is perhaps one of the art world's best kept secrets.

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