Vernacular patterns in flux: mirroring change in an Aboriginal workshop, Tiwi Designs, northern Australia
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This essay traces vernacular and insular patterns of Tiwi artists emerging into cosmopolitan consciousness in Australia and beyond through experiment and change. Pattern shapes the postcolonial world of the Pacific, "spreading like a virus," becoming a "logical framework for spreading new ideas" (Graeme Were, Lines that Connect: Rethinking Pattern and Mind in the Pacific, 2010 ). A resistance to white settlement combined a critical focus on traditional culture with pleasure in new materials and possibilities. The idiosyncratic patterns of Tiwi language mirrored this synthesis. The voice of this essay swings between mediating the production of designs within a Catholic Mission and a diary form documenting revelatory moments in a workshop. The vivid patterns printed on cloth were like a secret language in the face of implacable change. The formerly nomadic Tiwi and myself as workshop co-ordinator were both stretched in an imaginative hybridity.