Baskets Hold a History

Monday, 27 July 2015
Alana Garwood-Houng

Baskets held in museums may seem as though they are empty, but held within them are histories. It is not always visible but with time, patience and research, baskets can reveal what is held within. The histories in the baskets are important because they tell a story of a time past and of change. They also hold the threads of the story of their collection and journey to their current resting place.

To tell you the story of baskets I need to take you through my journey.

I have studied art at art school and while there used a range of mediums and majoring in sculpture. After art school I changed direction, exhibiting drawings of abstract forms and landscapes. Landscape drawings of the country of my ancestors, but in what I felt to be a non- Aboriginal format, both in style and medium. I wanted to create art that was based on a traditional cultural practice of my ancestors. I knew that I could not create art using techniques and imagery from other parts of Aboriginal Australia. I needed to find my own way. I do not live on Country and my grandmother left Cummeragunja as a teenager and never returned. She did not pass any cultural knowledge onto her daughter or to me. Identity is important to me I have spent a number of years on and off researching my family history. However, that was not enough for me, I as an artist, I needed to create, and to connect to culture through artistic expression. Family history research and finding a cultural artistic practice is also about confirming my sense of identity.

Years ago I came across a small photograph of a coiled basket with a text that stated that it was from Echuca, Victoria. Echuca is part of Yorta Yorta Country. Here was a traditional cultural practice from the area of my ancestors that I could use as part of my art practice.

This image of a coiled basket from Echuca was a turning point for me.