Boomerang Festival Workshop Focus: Sonja Carmichael

22 March 2016 | 4:55 pm | Artist Submission

"My work is inspired by the beautiful colours of the changing tides, surrounding seas and sands..."

Sonja Carmichael is a Quandamooka woman and descendent of the Ngugi people, one of three clans who are the traditional custodians of Quandamooka. She works with fibre, exploring traditional and contemporary techniques, reflecting her family's cultural connections with the land and seas of Minjerribah. Her interests and inspiration are drawn from the many stories connected to Quandamooka traditional baskets and place of belonging. Her current practice explores both the materials and techniques of these bags, their exchange roles and value in the past as well as how to revitalise the making of them today.

The materials she uses include the many lost and discarded items washed up on Minjerribah. She unravels and creates new woven forms, connecting the past, present. These materials, which have survived big seas and harsh conditions, have come to represent deep roots of resilience and strength today.

Carmichael leads the weaving workshops daily at Boomerang at Byron Bay Bluesfest. Here she gives an insight into some of her works:

Pulan Pools: Baskets Of Culture

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These baskets represent spiritual pools of water, reflecting my strong family spiritual connections with the land and seas of Quandamooka.  These woven objects have been created with a coiling technique using natural raffia, recycled fishing nets and plastic materials that wash up on the beautiful shores of Minjerribah. These items have been lost, found and unraveled, then woven into new forms, connecting the past, present and future. These materials have survived big seas, harsh conditions and come to represent the deep roots of resilience and restoration. To me this has come full circle, weaving it all together. 

My work is inspired by the beautiful colours of the changing tides, surrounding seas and sands, as well as my respect for Bunjong Djarra (Mother Earth) and our people who were once sitting here. My special place to weave on Country is at Pulan (Amity), a place of historical significance and the birthplace of my great-grandmother. When weaving I think about the stories and our ancestral gining (hands) Yahgabillie Gulayi (making dillibags), rubbing the Ungaire (freshwater reeds) against their legs, making beautiful looped bags. They were the master weavers.

Despite a painful history of colonisation, we still know the web of family histories since contact. We have close ties, connecting us to our place of belonging and cultural re-inheritance. My work reflects the changing tides and patterns of life:  'Before the Burn' - the pre contact era;  'The Burn' - the impact of colonisation on weaving practices; 'After the Burn' - weaving in the regenerative spirit.  

Yura Yalingbila: Welcoming The Whales

I was inspired to create Yalingbila's (whale) tail when the Humpback whales were passing by Minjerribah, Stradbroke Island, during the Quandamooka Festival that celebrated Culture, Country and People. My whale tail represents the arrival of thousands of these whales heading north to breed and passing by again on their long journey south with their calves, breaching and waving goodbye.