On Saturday, July 9th at 10 am, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of UVA opens an outdoor exhibition honoring significant moments in Indigenous Australian art history.
The museum has partnered with The Needle Lady and more than 70 knitters in the Charlottesville area and beyond to create colorful swatches of knitted work, which are installed on nine trees in its picturesque location on Pantops. The Yarning History exhibition is the Kluge-Ruhe Collection’s celebration of NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Week. Every July, NAIDOC Week commemorates the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Covering objects such as trees, benches or even vehicles with yarn as a form of playful and temporary “graffiti” is called “yarn bombing.” The yarn bombing movement began in various locations across the United States about ten years ago, and has since spread worldwide. This is the first yarn bombing project in the world to celebrate NAIDOC week.
The title of the exhibition, Yarning History, is a pun: “yarning” is Australian slang for telling a story, but in this case it also describes the materials that make up the exhibition. Five of the nine trees include swatches with important dates following a chronological timeline of Aboriginal art history. For example, the first tree features the date “40,000 BCE,” marking the earliest rock art made by Indigenous people in Australia.
Additionally, two large swatches depict the two Indigenous Australian flags: the Aboriginal flag designed by Harold Thomas in 1971, and the Torres Strait Islander flag, designed by Bernard Namok in 1992. The other trees in the exhibition are covered with swatches bearing the colors of both flags.
On July 9th the museum will celebrate NAIDOC Week with a brief flag raising ceremony at 10 am. Afterward, a tour of the Yarning History will be led by Kluge-Ruhe Director, and knitter, Margo Smith. Following the tour, refreshments of damper (Aboriginal bush bread) and billy tea will be served.
Visitors may see Yarning History for the rest of the summer during our regular hours. A handout with a map is available as a guide.
Support for this exhibition was provided by the Embassy of Australia. Special thanks to Mimi Hyde and Susan Bashline from The Needle Lady, Caitlin Kingston, and Berroco, Inc.