AUSTRALIAN FIELDNOTES: Power of art in sharing life stories

Meeting women from the edges of the world is an empowering process. After travelling through time and space from Finnish Lapland to Southern Australia it was a pleasure to meet, get to know and work together with the local Australian and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) traditional weavers.

After all the anticipation and waiting the power of art-making and working with hands connected us. Our project group has been preparing and getting ready for the project for almost a year. Now working together in action and using the artistic tools for sharing life stories was an important milestone.

We used an artistic ‘Life Mandala’ tool for sharing life stories and narratives. The life stories were captured through visualising important periods in one’s life through different colours, symbols, drawings and text. Visualisations signify different important periods or single years in one’s life. Most visualisation started from the middle from one’s birth into present moment as year circles of a tree. The visualisations were painted on round textile canvas and stitched together into a long line. The long line will create a three-dimensional spiral that shows how all the life stories create an ecosystem of narratives and are interconnected.

In Fowlers Bay we are now at the point where these painted life stories are connected together as individual women’s lives are connected with each other. Workshop participants focused on visualising their life stories and sharing them together. The stories were also documented through video.

The workshop enabled all of us to share our life histories and events that had left mark on us and our behaviours and patterns. It was empowering to hear the stories of participating women and relate to these stories. Sharing these stories facilitated our learning from each other. Visualising one’s life story of history is also a processing and self-reflective tool to understand one’s personal history and position.

The workshop continues tomorrow. It is fascinating to hear, learn and document how the power of a narrative art helps us to share our stories and understand each other and how the ‘Life Mandalas’ develop as participatory and expressive artistic tool.

By Satu Miettinen

Photo credits: Daria Akimenko

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