See Intricate Woven Works By Female First Nations Artists At ‘Thread Count’

First Nations fibre artists have been threading the stories of their ancestors for generations, using age-old techniques passed from hand to hand. 

Thread Count is an installation that shares these powerful stories and the master weavers behind them. Curated by Nina Fitzgerald, the exhibition at Collingwood Yards brings together some of the finest woven bags and baskets created on Country in Arnhem Land and the Daly River region of the Northern Territory. 

Visitors are invited to consider these works in the context of contemporary fashion, with the hopes of changing the way this uniquely Australian practice is perceived. 

Amelia Barnes

Kaantju woman and curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the NGV Shonae Hobson; exhibtion curator and proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman. Nina Fitzgerald; and Melbourne Fashion Festival board member Kallie Blauhorn at the Thread Count opening.  Photography –  Antonius Alexander

Photography –  Antonius Alexander

Photography –  Antonius Alexander

Photography –  Antonius Alexander

Photography –  Antonius Alexander

Photography –  Antonius Alexander

Photography –  Antonius Alexander

Photography –  Antonius Alexander

Amelia Barnes
8th of March 2022

Australia’s Top End region is home to numerous fibre artists who harvest, dye, and weave natural fibres into incredible works of art. Traditionally made with utility in mind, these works draw on resources from the land to beautifully meld form and functionality. 

The practice endures today due to cultural resilience and sustainability, highlighting the strength of First Nations peoples and their connection to Country.

Thread Count is a new exhibition showing at Agency Projects and Padre Coffee in Collingwood Yards featuring more than 100 bags and baskets. The multimedia installations champion these pieces and the artisans behind them, including female artists from six different Aboriginal-owned and operated remote art centres across Arnhem Land: Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka, Maningrida Arts, Gapuwiyak Culture and Arts, Marrawuddi, Injalak Arts, and Bula’bula Arts.

‘It’s so powerful to showcase the strength and resilience of both Aboriginal cultures and Aboriginal women who are the humble, unwavering backbones to a lot of our communities,’ says exhibition curator Nina Fitzgerald, a proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman. ‘By giving weavers a new platform to share their stories and promote their craftsmanship, the practice can continue to be sustained.’

Thread Count challenges visitors to view these woven works in the context of contemporary fashion. These pieces are not only beautiful works of art, but functional and sustainable garments. Everything from the harvesting to the preparation and weaving itself is done by hand using natural fibres and dyes.

‘These practices are the epitome of slow fashion, which is becoming an increasingly pertinent consideration of the contemporary fashion narrative,’ says Nina. ‘In Australia, we are so lucky to have a wealth of knowledge we can draw on to develop more sustainable approaches. In fashion particularly, all we need to do is look to the master weavers who have been weaving together stories since time immemorial.’

Thread Count also features photographs by Nina, capturing the art of harvesting and the process of weaving; and a native floral installation by Alchemy Orange

The exhibition is located across the Agency Projects and Padre Coffee locations at Collingwood Yards. The two are ongoing collaborators as part of Padre Coffee’s Good Coffee Doing Good program, supporting the Agency Projects’ Ngurra Kutjuwarra (Together on Country) program that enables Warlayirti Artists to travel and return to their ancestral Country. $4 of every Padre Coffee Golden Rule blend is donated to the program. 

Thread Count
Thursday March 3 -Saturday March 12
Collingwood Yards
Johnston Street Building
35 Johnston Street
Collingwood VIC
Free entry

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