Wrapped in Culture launches at QVMAG Royal Park

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Media release – Issued Thursday 21 January 2021

The City of Launceston's Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery is proud to announce the launch of Wrapped in Culture, a collaborative project between 10 artists from Australia and Canada now showing at the Art Gallery at Royal Park.
In a world-first collaboration, the exhibition was developed in November 2017 when 10 artists created a traditional robe and cloak during the course of three weeks in Ottawa, Canada.
Wrapped in Culture is a powerful reclamation project grounded in community engagement. The project encouraged inter-cultural sharing of material history to produce works reflective of First Nation traditions, cultures and communities, both past and present.
The exhibition premiered in April 2019 at the new Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) and toured Canadian museums and traditional lands/reservations. QVMAG's Royal Park Gallery will be the first Australian location to host the travelling exhibition. A traditional buffalo robe and possum skin cloak are centrepieces of the exhibition, with portrait photography of the participants wearing the cloaks.
General Manager of Creative Arts and Cultural Services, Tracy Puklowski said Wrapped in Culture is an opportunity to celebrate the continuous culture of First Nations artists across the globe. 'In a week in which Australians reflect on our past, present and future, we invite our community to engage with our celebration of a revived traditional practice of cloak making. The collaboration of the First Nations people from Canada and Australia is historically monumental, and QVMAG is proud to share this world-first union with our community.'
Maree Clarke is a Yorta Yorta/Wamba Wamba/Mutti Mutti/Boonwurrung woman involved in the project and a pivotal figure in the reclamation of south-east Australian Aboriginal art practices, reviving elements of lost First Nations culture. Maree said, 'the opportunity to be involved in Wrapped in Culture has enabled us to reconnect with our culture by reviving a traditional practice. The cloaks are sacred objects that conveyed history, stories, and culture. The practice of making cloaks was lost or lying dormant for many years, with only six surviving cloaks held in the museum collections around the world. In 1999, artists, Vicki Couzens, Lee Darroch and Treahna Hamm saw the cloaks in a museum, inspired by their deep historical significance we started making them, initially for the opening of the Commonwealth Games and then we worked in communities in the south-east of Australia as a way to give this traditional practice back to our people.'
The buffalo robe is equally significant and sacred to Indigenous peoples in Canada. Similar to a possum cloak, a robe was created as a protective garment, and as a means to convey cultural narratives and record historical events. The winter robe was an important record of a band or tribe’s experiences, often acting as a long-term calendar of their activities captured with pictographs. In addition to providing warmth and protection from the elements, buffalo robes were also used as blankets, in ceremonies, for healing, and as a record of individual or communal achievement.
The international joining of these two groups of artists serves as a community project. This revives two culturally distinct, yet similar, artistic traditions that were used historically for both sacred and practical purposes. The robe and cloak are also objects that hold deeper meaning related to the identities of the artists, the significance of family and place, and the importance of intercultural exchange. They create kinship and understanding through the acts of making, sharing, and teaching.
Artists Maree Clarke and Vicki West will be running a Continuity of Culture workshop in Launceston as part of the exhibition opening for the local community on the 24th & 25th of January. The workshop will be an immersive cultural experience, celebrating the art of possum skin cultural practices. It is a unique opportunity to share the stories and creative process of two iconic First Nations artists, whilst experiencing a hands-on traditional practice employed to produce a contemporary work.
The exhibition Wrapped in Culture is showing at the Art Gallery at Royal Park from 22 January until 18 July 2021.