Weaved basket created by Aunty Jennine Armistead, proud Willum Warrain Elder, and donated by Aunty Jennine to Museums Victoria in February 2021.
This basket is one of many baskets that Aunty Jennine Armistead hand-weaved after learning traditional basket-weaving techniques at the Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association in Boon Wurrung / Bunurong Country, Hastings, Mornington Peninsula. During COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, Aunty Jennine gave away free plant cuttings and handwoven baskets to her neighbours and passers-by - via a pink bookshelf she placed on her front street - as a way to lift community spirits, practice kindness and honour of own ancestry and story.
In a diary entry written on Day 5 of COVID-19 lockdowns in August 2020, Aunty Jennine reflected on her experience of weaving baskets and giving them away to strangers:
'I pick up my fibres and strings and commence weaving to ease the pain of isolation and loneliness. Not being able to see my family, my friends and children, is heartbreaking. At least weaving allows my mind to wander and I become lost in the good memories or even the bad ones. As I weave I reflect on my life like I have never been able to do before. It's the unnatural silence that allows this opportunity.I gather up a dozen or so baskets and go out to my little pink stall where I have plants for people to take. I chat to them and look into their eyes. Some are sadder than others; they say they are almost at breaking point. I offer them a hug, a human touch, and I give them one of my baskets that I have especially made for them. Every stitch is a memory from my youth to old age, every stich is a memory of happiness or pain that makes up my life's story. May my ancestors spirits look kindly on all who see my humble work; may she look with pride on what my life has become.'
Aunty Jennine Armistead, a proud Yaran woman from the Padthaway region in South Australia, lived in Tennant Creek and Darwin before moving to Victoria later in life upon meeting and marrying her husband. In an oral history interview conducted in December 2020, she described feeling like a 'lost soul' until she discovered Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association: 'I'd been lost for a long time, not belonging anywhere, having been taken out of the desert and brought down here. And walking in through Willum Warrain gates, it was like, Thank god I'm home. I automatically had a sense of belonging.'
Willum Warrain, which translates to "home by the sea" in the Boon Wurrung language by Westernport, is an Aboriginal Community-controlled organisation that provides a safe cultural space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in Boon-Wurrung / Bunurong Country on the Mornington Peninsula. It officially opened in 2014, but had been in the works under various other names and operations since the late eighties. With over 450 Aboriginal members as at December 2020, it provides a range of programs for its Aboriginal community members, including a Women's group, a Men's group, a Deadly Kids group, a Bush Play group (for younger kids and toddlers) a Gardening group (open to non-Indigenous members as well) and a Welcome to Country ceremony for babies.
Aunty Jennine learnt how to weave baskets at Willum Warrain, and in an oral history interview conducted in December 2020 she spoke about the importance of connecting to traditional knowledge systems and cultural practices, and passing these practices on to others. Weaving baskets and giving them away to strangers during COVID-19 was, for Aunty Jennine, a way to pass on a piece of her own story and ancestry: 'In our culture, sharing is very important', she reflected in the interview: 'In the Indigenous culture, you share. And you must share.'
Woven basked with feathery seed heads woven into the exterior surface forming a whorl in a clockwise direction.
This weaved basket is accompanied by a range of other items including; another weaved basket and a handwritten diary entry donated by Aunty Jennine Armistead, a Willum Warrain 'Black and Deadly' T-Shirt, a series of digital photographs and an oral history interview. These were all collected with support from the Office for Suburban Development for the Museums in My Neighbourhood Project and One Year On digital exhibition, and now form part of Museums Victoria's Collecting the Curve: COVID-19 Pandemic Collection.
This collection of Willum Warrain items represent a wide range of COVID-19 related storylines including: daily life during lockdown, local neighbourhood connections, gardening, kindness and gift giving, and the emergence of new neighbourhood traditions. These items also symbolise and reflect a deeper story of First Peoples cultural knowledge and community connection, including storylines around truth telling, Stolen Generations, resilience, solidarity and intergenerational cultural exchange. These items will provide a lasting reminder of the community support activities of Willum Warrain members during COVID-19, as well as the importance of place, connection to Country and the vital role of First Peoples cultural knowledge and customs during the COVID-19 pandemic, and always.
Type of item
10.5 cm (Height), 39 cm (Outside Diameter)
Diameter above includes seed heads. Diameter for basket only, excluding seed heads = 23cm