Cloaking, Quilting, Reckoning: We Stole Wages explores the possibility of a reparative practice through sustained, critical hand-stitching. The first of three eventual works, We Stole Wages embraced hours of daily stitching practice for a period of a year in an attempt to provoke meaningful commitment to critically reflecting on colonial subjectivity.
The works centralise the role of colonial whites in the slavery of young Australian Aboriginal teens forced into indentured labour up until the 1970s either through domestic service or farm work. The personal accounts of forced indentured labour, such as those endured by Lesley Williams (Williams & Williams, 2015), provoke the explorations with stitching and its associations with domestic arts practised by colonial women living rurally, and how these seemingly neutral or gentle hobbies enact colonial processes of erasure of cultural practices of care.
The works in Cloaking, Quilting, Reckoning physically and figuratively deconstruct domestic homewares textiles produced during the twentieth century that were commonly purchased as souvenir items, that often appropriated Aboriginal art and cultural objects, and reinscribed Country through the eyes of the white tourist. This presentation discusses how the slow, extended labour in We Stole Wages is a transversal process for acknowledging white colonial responsibility, and that the quilt-like object directly addresses us and our complicity.