Kevin Murray – Curator and Writer

What we make of our world

Welcome Signs: Contemporary Interpretations of the Garland

Posted on | May 25, 2010 | No Comments

    Welcome Signs website now online at http://welcomesigns.craftunbound.net

    A common cultural thread throughout the Asia Pacific region is the ceremony of welcome. Honoured guests, returning fisherman and sometimes lost strangers are treated to delicacies, gifts, song and dance. The garland plays an important role as a beautiful and scented wreath with which to adorn the neck of a guest.

    With urbanisation, traditional communities and families are becoming increasingly fragmented. The welcome garland changes its function from an ephemeral part of the ritual to a keepsake of home. Degradable materials like flower petals can be replaced by other materials, including plastics, money and confections. This is particularly poignant in Pacific communities, where sea-level rises combined with economic diasporas is placing increasing pressure on maintenance of traditional culture.

    Welcome Signs is an exhibition of jewellery and adornment that draws on the tradition of the garland. It considers how the cultural traditions might be sustained despite displacement and urbanisation. And it re-considers the role of welcome in a world increasingly made of strangers, including temporary citizens, such as students and refugees.

    As a project, Welcome Signs draws on the success of the Melbourne Scarf Festival, which over five years explored the many cultural dimensions of this popular craft, including its religious, tribal, fashion, psychological and even technological aspects. By comparison, the garland is like a closed scarf whose meaning is more in the act of bestowal than in the wearing.

    It also draws from the Turn the Soil exhibition that toured Australia in 1998-9, featuring the work of second-generation Australians. As this exhibition visited venues throughout the country, it focused on different stories about the particular contribution of non-British cultures to the story of Australia.

    Welcome Signs aims to be a touring exhibition that not only contains beautiful and interesting objects, but also acts as a catalyst for thinking about the practice of welcome today. Jewellery will be sourced from throughout the Asia Pacific. This will include Australasian contemporary jewellers who create unique works of art out of these traditions. Works will include:

  • Salusalus and leis from Pacific islands, including new forms from Auckland
  • Innovative versions of the var mala garlands that are part of Hindu ritual
  • Urbanised versions of the phuang malai in Thailand
  • Contemporary interpretations of the tais from East Timor and selendang from Indonesia
  • Contemporary art neckpieces from Australasian jewellers, including wreaths, laurels and medals

Welcome Signs: Contemporary Interpretations of Traditional Garlands consists of several components

Delhi exhibition (confirmed)

New Delhi, India, 4-6 February 2011

Exhibition for the World Craft Council Jewellery Conference, Abhushan: Tradition & Design – Dialogues for the 21st Century

This exhibition from the Asia Pacific region will form a key element in the international survey of jewellery for this major convention

Touring exhibition (in development)

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