The Federation Tapestry: And Now Exploration and Settlement are Underway

This panel forms the fourth in the suite of tapestries which make up the Federation Tapestry.

Federation Tapestry: And Now Exploration and Settlement are Underway

And Now Exploration and Settlement are Underway

And Now Exploration and Settlement are Underway was designed by the tapestry’s principal artist/designer Murray Walker and depicts the cultural interaction between Indigenous people, settlers and visitors to Australia.

This triptych (a work consisting of three parts) incorporates the work of three Aboriginal artists – 19th century artists William Barak and Tommy McRae from south-eastern Australia and an unnamed artist from Groote Eylandt, northern Australia, who painted on bark in the 1930s and 1940s.

The two known artists in this tapestry, William Barak and Tommy McRae, were important leaders of their people who, through their work, helped build bridges between the European settlers and Aboriginal people in the second half of the 19th century. William Barak’s Dancing scene of figures with boomerangs and people in possum skin cloaks was painted at Corranderrk, near Melbourne, and sold to an European visitor in about 1880. Tommy McRae’s Aboriginal scenes and European people, 1862, shows a squatter and his wife observing a ‘mimic war dance’ and seeing only what the dancers want them to see.

Federation Tapestry: And Now Settlement and Exploration are Underway, in progress

And Now Settlement and Exploration are Underway in progress
on the loom.

Tommy McRae’s 1860s drawing is worked onto a tapestry panel

Tommy McRae’s 1860s drawing is worked onto a tapestry panel.

The Groote Eylandt bark painting portrays a traditional way of life and depicts contact with Indonesian fishermen who have been coming to northern Australia since the 17th century to collect Trepang (an edible sea slug). The small fragile original artworks were enlarged to the scale of the tapestry panel and then woven in their entirety so that they could be read as distinct components of the panel. The weavers studied the original works and matched colour wool samples as closely as possible before weaving enlarged sections of the artwork.

Weavers studying the original painting by William Barak

Weavers studying the original painting by William Barak in the Picture Collection of the State Library of Victoria.
Source: Victorian Tapestry Workshop

The transfer of these exquisite works into the tapestry medium gives them a new prominence and extends opportunities for all Australians to appreciate and enjoy them.

And Now Exploration and Settlement are Underway

Designer: Murray Walker and incorporating selected images from 19th Century Aboriginal artists, William Barak and Tommy McRae, (LaTrobe Collection, State Library of Victoria), and a Groote Eylandt bark painting (unknown artist) circa 1930s (Leonhard Adam Collection of International Indigenous Culture, The University of Melbourne).

Size: 200 x 615 cm

The Victorian Tapestry Workshop acknowledges the support of Aboriginal communities for the use of the Barak, McRae and Groote Eylandt images.

The Federation Tapestry was supported by the Commonwealth Government through the Federation Fund.

Further Reading

Latreille, Anne and Walker, Murray 2001. The Federation Tapestry: one people united in peace. Catalogue available from the Victorian Tapestry Workshop and the Melbourne Museum Shop

Walker, Sue (Ed.) 2000. Modern Australian Tapestries from the Victorian Tapestry Workshop. The Beagle Press.

1995. Australian Tapestries from the Victorian Tapestry Workshop.

Brochures: Victorian Tapestry Workshop, Melbourne’s Marvellous Tapestries

Video: 1997 Contemporary Australian Tapestries from the Victorian Tapestry Workshop.

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david william mccrae 7 June, 2010 21:21
this is my family works my nan is angelina morgon (nee) mcrae wich her photo is hanging up my mum is lavinia mary green nans daughter im still trying to chase my roots
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Caroline Tully 30 January, 2011 21:55
You should also mention the weavers of this tapestry. I am one of them - Caroline Tully - and the others are listed on the plinth at the museum at the end of the tapestries on the Nicholson St side.
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Emmie Smit 7 July, 2011 21:47
I am doing research for an article and need to know: did tapestry existed in the Aborigine-making culture?
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