Threading the Commonwealth: Textile, Tradition, Culture, Trade and Politics

1 MARCH – 30 APRIL 2006

Office of Commonwealth Games Coordination


Threading the Commonwealth: Textile Tradition, Culture, Trade and
Politics, presented by RMIT Gallery, consisted of key historical and contemporary textiles from the seventy-one countries that make up the Commonwealth. The collection demonstrated how various traditional and visual languages have transformed over time. While exploring a range of issues, the primary focus of the exhibition was on the different ways that hand-made items convey information about the experiences and material circumstances of the maker with a powerful immediacy.

Threading the Commonwealth: Textile Tradition, Culture, Trade and Politics told two grand stories common across these diverse cultures while celebrating the course of human histories and experiences. Firstly, the ceremonially significant textiles in displays of power - the Power Cloths - worn by key figures in the nations of the Commonwealth, ranging from the simple dhoti of Mahatma Gandhi, to a state gown of Queen Victoria to the Aboriginal possum cloak given to the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, John So. The second story concerned Rites of Passage - from birth, circumcision, marriage to death and all that comes between.

RMIT’s Storey Hall facade was transformed by cloths woven from gold and silver thread and the interior ceiling was draped by an embroidered canopy that combined the skills and imagery from community members who make up the ‘common wealth’ of Australia.