Weathered hands weaving a basket

We contributed to intercultural community action along the River Murray through art and design

An exhibition mounted by UniSA in 2002 was not only the launching place and fount of inspiration for a new wave of artists; but also created a groundswell of public interest in environmental and cultural issues, the ripples of which are still felt to this day.

Weaving the Murray was conceived in 2001, when it was commissioned as a project to celebrate Australia’s centenary of federation. The brief was to create a ‘cultural map’ of Australia’s longest river, highlighting the diversity of the communities that resided along the Murray and telling their stories, past and present.

Weaving the Murray contributed to intercultural community action through art and design and engaged more than 350,000 people in River Murray-connected communities.

To build that ‘map’, a team of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists and researchers made two trips along the river’s 2,570-kilometre length, recording stories and collecting artefacts, including examples of traditional textiles made by Aboriginal people, to detail peoples’ relationship with the river over the years.

Weaving the Murray was first shown in 2002 at the Art Gallery of South Australia as part of the Adelaide Festival, exhibiting a diverse combination of art forms including the collected artefacts, crafts and stories from the Murray communities and cultures. It launched to great acclaim.

Of the seven artists who created the exhibition, five were either students or academics at UniSA’s School of Art. They were led by Professor Kay Lawrence (now Emeritus Professor AM), one of Australia’s most distinguished textile practitioners.

One of the greatest legacies of Weaving the Murray has been its influence on a generation of UniSA art students, some of whom have since established prominent careers, including Melinda Rankin, Director of the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery; Lucy Potter, Gallery Manager at the Jam Factory in Adelaide; and Nici Cumpston, a Weaving the Murray artist, who has since become the first Curator of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

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