Starting my environmental project in Australia

My artistic work has always been based on strong feelings. I am interested in ordinary, everyday things, which usually don’t get any attention. Also the status of women and children is important to me. Environmental issues have always been important to me as well. My artistic work’s one aim is to promote awareness of climate change and these days I use only recycled materials in my work.
It has been one year since my mother passed away. Last year around Christmas we were emptying our mother’s home with my sister. We found three boxes of postcards and letters which my mother received from her sisters and friends. I could not throw them away. I started to stitch them with ‘blanket stitches’ as they call them in Australia. Blanket stitches are my favourite kind of stitches and I have used them already as a child. I used them when I was stitching postcards in the girl’s evening club which was organised by the Salvation Army. I was under 10 years old. Then we made boxes of them. From my mother’s postcards I made a coat. The work is called ‘Safe’.
In Fowlers Bay Australia I started a new project based on my work with my mother’s postcards. I wandered around in the environment and collected the rubbish I found there. It was not much. In Australia the environment is very clean. I picked up the rubbish, washed and stitched them using the blanket stitches. While I was stitching the rubbish I had collected I was happy to talk to other women, share stories about our lives and tell them more about my project.
I continued my new project at the Tjutjuna Aboriginal Arts and Culture Centre in Ceduna. I was collecting rubbish around there and stitched the found pieces for a day. We spent also few days working with Fibrespace artists and makers at Platform Gallery in Port Augusta. There women started to bring me some of their own rubbish, such as chocolate and candy wrappers, for my work.
After the amazing trip to Australia I have been thinking about the most touching things back there. I really enjoyed meeting different women on the other edge of the world and finding out how similar we women are. I enjoyed sharing our life experiences. The most touching stories were the stories about Maralinga. The stories of atomic weapons which were tested by the British at the Aboriginal Reserve. The British Nuclear tests at Maralinga occurred between 1956 and 1963 at the Maralinga site about 800 kilometres north-west of Adelaide. The aboriginal people still suffer from the effects of the bombs.
I also visited a touching exhibition in Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute in Adelaide. The exhibition was called Life Lifted into the Sky and it was about the Maralinga issues. After these experiences my own artistic work is in process. I am going to do an art piece of the stitched rubbish of Australia based on the Maralinga stories. This new piece is going to be exhibited in Arktikum in Rovaniemi in December this year.
Text and photography by Tarja Wallius

One thought on “Starting my environmental project in Australia

  1. Your words are truly heartfelt…and i saw with my own eyes the absolute dedication you have for this project. From the other side of the world you came and listened to one of the sad stories in south australia’s history….which is ongoing just as the loss of our mothers is always with us. I talked to you about blanket stitch and now such a simple stitch is what you have chosen to edge all your little pieces of australia.. The pieces we throw away!! How incredible. Women who express feelings through making something can keep stories alive for others to think on and wonder about. I think you are creating a very powerful art work … Meaningful and edgy. Thank you for journeying across the world to be with us for a little while. 🙋🏻💖

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