“Look with favor upon a bold beginning.”
Across the Asia Pacific, the floral offering is a ubiquitous mark of respect. It welcomes guests, honours individuals, adorns homes and decorates temples. Many Aboriginal communities in Australia offer a branch of eucalyptus leaves as a welcome to country. Such garlands reflect the beauty of local nature and the value of the gift as an exchange that links people, communities and cultures. Garlands are mostly temporary objects, destined to wither and fade in a few days. It’s a subtle reminder that the bearer is not a long-term member of the community, but a guest that will eventually depart. Cross-cultural partnerships depend on recognition of differences as much as similarities.
This magazine uses the garland as a motif to encourage a dialogue across the Asia Pacific about the objects that give our lives meaning. The world of Garland is populated with individuals who are driven to make something from the place where they are. Many Australians visit and work in creative centres in the region, where they collaborate with local workshops to produce works of enduring beauty. Others remain in Australia to make something of their work, whether it is the verdant lotus ponds of Arnhem Land, flotsam washed up on the wild southern beaches or the street culture of an inner suburb. The publication is based in Australia, within a broader regional context.
Many of the stories follow Australians as they engage with cultures from the Middle East, across Asia to the Pacific coasts of the Americas. They come from a settler nation, bound in Western culture but evolving a cosmopolitan sense of co-existence. They can bring with them a fresh sense of possibilities for creative expression, not beholden to a developmental agenda that presumes the West as the only way forward. As an innocent abroad, the Australian has potential to connect cultures that may experience historical conflicts.
Craft offers a lingua franca between cultures that is not simply about catching up with Western advances. There is much to learn about the value of the object in different cultures as a way of sustaining meaning across time and space. Embedded in the object is the deep time necessary to master techniques for giving expression to the language of materials. As the object travels from the workshop to the gallery and home, it provides the source of this creativity with the respect and honour that sustains it.
Global trade is not new to craft. Epic trade routes such as the Silk Road enabled craftspersons to sell their works to distant markets. Australians are finding increasing opportunities in Asia through the many biennials and new galleries. While e-commerce promises broad reach internationally, the challenge is to build stories that are unique and credible. Garland will provide a travel guide to the world’s biggest emerging economies. Garland offers a platform for these cultures to see themselves in relation to others. In the long term, we are all mere guests on the earth, facing a common challenge to make something enduring out of that fleeting gift.
Garland is proud to be associated with the World Crafts Council – Australia.