It is hard to know how to categorise this exhibition. It is visually very pleasing, reminding me of a colourful, but above all, innocent time of backyard clotheslines with wooden pegs, before dryers were invented; a time when a relative knitted all manner of “woollies” which included jumpers, scarves, and stuffed animals; a time when if you asked your community for help, you would get it. In spades.
A time long before I had ever heard the words “asylum seekers”.
The textile aspect to the exhibition is, in itself an artistic endeavour, if not a political one. You see, some of the balls used to create some of these jumpers, were waiting inside a bag, which was waiting inside Inverbrackie Detention Centre. Waiting. Waiting to be made into a jumper.
The wool was unneeded, unwanted. Some might say it was surplus to the requirements of the original owner. Nobody minded the colour or texture of the wool, or where it was made or how it came to be discarded. Some clever people (the curators and their friends) took the perfectly good, usable wool and turned it into a thing of beauty, knowledge and inspiration. Am I being too subtle?
The smells of Café Troppo and the friendliness of the staff there, added to my general feeling of… what was that feeling? Oh yes. Hope.
Meredyth Taylor and Debra Taylor, with Prue Madsen and Alison Wolff are responsible for this simple, yet heartfelt outpouring of jumpers which will ultimately benefit the Hills Circle of Friends through the sale of the jumpers. There is not lots of meaningless political words; just very pretty little jumpers for little people.
If you fear the exhibition may be contentious, I read that the colourful rainbow jumpers symbolise hope and the desire for a secure future. Isn’t that something we can all agree we want?
The patterned jumpers include delightful themes such as The Kangaroos, The Garden, The Lighthouse, and, my personal favourite, The Chooks.
The exhibition, whatever its categorisation, is a little bit “thousand origami cranes” (on a much smaller scale), with an equally timeless and incredibly important message of peace.
“The jumpers are knitted with love and symbolise hope for a safe, free, and happy future in Australia for asylum seekers and importantly, that we end all detention – especially for families and their children,” writes Meredyth Taylor.
For an area of our South Australian lives in which apathy has almost become the resort after the last resort, I applaud these people who are trying to affect change for some of our most vulnerable. Bravo!
Debra Taylor surmises, “I hope that these jumpers – symbols of wishes and hopes for our children’s futures – might in some way cause us to reflect on our own good fortune and tap into a greater vein of empathy in our community towards asylum seeks and their children.”
Whatever your politics, it is my hope that every South Australian go and see these glorious garments that are so much more than an article of clothing. Better still, support the knitting women of Inverbrackie and buy one.
Reviewed by Gordon Forester
Little Jumpers of Hope exhibition
When: 12-25 September 2013
Where: Café Troppo, 42 Whitmore Square, Adelaide
Photo credit: John Mercer