The Gift of Grandmother Shimmer Power 2021
Short narrated video (7mins)
A few years ago I began researching my grandmother’s late 19th century childhood. She grew up on the Adelong goldfields in southern NSW, on Wiradjuri country. Her father was a reef miner.
Searching the historical archives was frustrating. They contain scant written records of women’s and children’s apparently ‘un-noteworthy’ lives. I eventually stumbled across their ‘crevice stories’ tucked away in the Tumbarumba Pioneer Women’s Hut Museum, not far from Adelong. They were sutured within the lovingly curated domestic craft displays of this tiny museum. Moved by the creative integrity of these women’s handiwork traditions, I took to stitching the crevice story of my grandmother’s childhood.
The practice of stitching my grandmother-as-child into Adelong’s settler miner landscape threads me back into my own inheritance. It literally knots me into the fabric of the colonial ruins – of Wiradjuri dispossession and land destruction – and calls me to account. At the same time, undertaking this slow, repetitive handiwork rehearses the re-crafting capabilities that my grandmother has passed down to me. Each stitch thickens my awareness of this double inheritance – of responsibility and capability – and brings it into material relief.
My handiwork also takes inspiration from Deborah Bird Rose’s (2017) call to seek ‘Shimmer: When all you love is being trashed’. Shimmer is the life-giving energy that pulses across ecological communities through symbiont exchange, and across generations as the gift of ancestral power. In these times of cascading ecological collapse, it’s increasingly hard to find. But my cultivating the arts of noticing, shimmer can be captured and revealed through unexpected forms of vibrant exchange. Through tapping into a creative exchange with my grandmother, I use the craft of stitching as a mode for capturing and revealing her shimmer power.
This video documents the process of connecting with my grandmother’s shimmer power through stitching the landscape of her childhood. Starting with an image of Adelong Wiradjuri country, chalked onto base fabric, the video dissolves across sequential layers of stitching. Each layer marks the intensifying colonial imprint upon the land and gradually brings my grandmother’s presence to life. It’s accompanied by narration. I hope it reveals how stitching can contribute to re-presencing disregarded crevice stories of the colonial ruins, while also paying homage to the gift of grandmother shimmer power.
Rose, D.B. (2017). Shimmer: When all you love is being trashed. In A.L. Tsing, H.A. Swanson, E. Gan & N. Bubandt (Eds.) Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene, pp. G51-G63, Minneapolis: Minnesota Press.
Affrica Taylor is a retired academic and a decolonial/eco-feminist/geographer who worked in Indigenous and environmental education for over 30 years. She recently morphed into an environmental craftivist, Knitting Nanna and ardent supporter of young people demanding climate justice. Affrica lives in Ngunnawal Country. This is the first exhibition of her handiwork.
Provenance: Peer reviewed submission.