FREMANTLE will be awash with arts and craft when the The Indian Ocean Craft Triennial comes to town on September 17.
The new festival features contemporary craft by 30 artists from seven countries in the Indian Ocean rim, as well as an international conference, artist workshops and a fashion show.
The festival’s showpiece exhibition Curiosity & Rituals of the Everyday will be held at John Curtin Gallery and Fremantle Arts Centre.
“The exhibition calls out across the oceans with rich and evocative stories of culture, life and times from countries including India, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Kenya, South Africa, and indeed Australia,” FAC director Anna Reece says.
“A celebration of how deeply embedded cultural practice has and will always be in craft making,”
Exhibition highlights include What’s in a Noongar woman’s bag? where Sharyn Egan, a Noongar painter, weaver and sculptor, and other Noongar women recreate bags made and carried by their ancestors.
The starting point for the project was explorer George Grey’s comprehensive list of 23 objects typically found in a woman’s bag, written in 1839.
Indian designer Ishan Khosla collaborated with other artisans on his colourful carpentry pieces, which blend contemporary Indian advertising with the traditional kaavad — a portable shrine and storytelling device – to reflect contemporary Indian life.
One of the most striking works at the festival is Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru’s wearable masks, made from from scrap metal sourced from Nairobi. The angular works have a steam-punk vibe and look slightly sinister.
It wouldn’t be a craft exhibition without some embroidery, with Fremantle-based artist Susie Vickery’s textile installation taking audiences on an immersive journey across the ocean.
Festival co-curator Carola Akindele-Obe says the Triennial has been three years in the making and it was rewarding to see works finally being installed in Fremantle this week.
“I’m just struck by the scale and ambition of these works in the flesh,” she says.
“There is so much colour and life to the pieces, and they have such interesting stories behind them. They really suit the wide open spaces of the Arts centre, and the other spaces in the uni.”
The Indian Ocean Craft Triennial will kick-off with a celebration of dance, song and music at the Fremantle Arts Centre on September 17, including performances by Noongar artists, classical Indian musicians and dancers from Saraswati Mahavidhyalaya, Tamil drummers and contemporary African performance.
There will also be food from countries like Kenya, Singapore and Thailand.
Curiosity and Rituals is at the FAC from September 18 – November 7. For the full Indian Ocean Craft Triennial program see indianoceancrafttriennial.com
By STEPHEN POLLOCK