Penny McLintock reports for ABC:

The curator of a new exhibition on Indigenous fibre art hopes it will raise the profile of the contemporary works.

ReCoil: Change and Exchange in Coiled Fibre Art includes works by 15 textile artists and is on show at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Curator Margie West says the exhibition explores the coiled basketry technique and how it changed and spread around Australia.

“It’s been a really influential technique the way it spread and women have adapted it and through it have actually founded completely new movements in fibre,” she said.

The technique was traditionally practiced by Aboriginal people of south-east Australia before spreading to Arnhem Land. It was then introduced through workshops to women in remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia.

“It’s obvious through some of the work we’re showing in the exhibition that the women from different regions are doing quite distinctive work,” Ms West said.

Organised by Artback NT, the exhibition features conventional baskets through to quirky, two and three dimensional sculptures.

One of the highlights is a small version of the Grass Toyota which won the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art award in 2005.

“It takes a huge amount of time to make one item,” Ms West said.

“Particularly if they go out and collect the material as they do in Arnhem Land … and they strip it and they dry it and they dye it and then they fabricate it into a work.

“So it can take weeks just to do a small basket.”

Ms West says she hopes the exhibition will help raise the profile of the art form.

“The returns for these sort of works is not particularly high compared to paintings,” she said.

“So that’s the point of exhibitions like this is to really profile the significance of the work and elevate women on the same level as known artists so their work is appreciated on that level.”

ReCoil opens tomorrow at the National Museum and will be on show until June before travelling to Caloundra Regional Gallery in Queensland and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

Ted Simpson’s story

A new display recognising the contributions of Ted Simpson – New South Wales’ first Aboriginal mayor – has also been added to the museum’s First Australians gallery.

Edward ‘Teddy Guy’ Simpson spent more than 10 years on the Brewarrina council before being elected as mayor in 2004.

His political career began in the 1960s in the shearing sheds of rural Australia where he became involved in the Aboriginal legal service and Aboriginal Development Commission.

He then spent eight years on the National Aboriginal Conference, advising the prime minister and federal and state governments on Aboriginal affairs before being elected to Brewarrina council in the late 1980s.

He passed away in 2007.

Director of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program Dr Michael Pickering says Ted Simpson’s story is an important part of Australia’s history.

“It’s about ordinary people and ordinary lives. This is a local hero, someone who has made a great achievement,” he said.

“It’s a reminder that history is made at an individual level, at a local level. They’re not necessarily the classic big names of history but nonetheless they create Australia’s history.”