Accepted Paper:

'Crafts' to 'Arts' ? Australian Indigenous baskets making and its change  


Sachiko Kubota (Kobe University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focus on the historical changes of basket production of Australian Aboriginal women and its change of acceptance. In 1980s, they were traded as souvenirs but in 2010s, they are exhibited as art works in galleries. I argue how these changes happened and what is the social outcome.

Paper long abstract:

In the late 1980s, I started my research in northeastern Arnhem Land of Australia focusing on the change of women's role and status in the society. Research area is owned by an Indigenous group of Yolngu. One of the activities I have focused on was arts & crafts production especially of women with comparison to men. And I found the clear difference by gender in their type of production, income and social value placed on them. Women's production, such as baskets and net bags were largely seen as 'crafts', not important, and secular. Whereas men's production was seen as the works as sacred with important cultural significance and command much higher price. Both of them were seen as ethnological items or souvenirs items though.

This situation surrounding Aboriginal arts & crafts production has experienced a large change since then. First, Paintings by them became internationally famous and some artists are acclaimed very high profile and price. In other words, they became fine arts in world art scene. And second, women as well as men are started producing paintings. Back in 1980s, paintings were supposed to be produced by men only in most of the area. With the changes in paintings and their fame, the basket production has followed to change. In this presentation, I will discuss the current changes of Aboriginal crafts and try to discuss the social meaning of it.

Panel WIM-CHAT05
Fashionable tradition: innovation and continuity in the production and consumption of handmade textiles and crafts