Wagari: Dabiyil, Biram – Vessel: water and sky

Sonja Carmichael  |  Elisa Jane Carmichael  |  Freja Carmichael


Humber Galleries is pleased to present Wagari: Dabiyil, Biram – Vessel: water and sky; a collaborative large-scale cyanotype textile created by Sonja, Elisa Jane and Freja Carmichael featuring imagery of handwoven forms and string and found objects. As a family of Quandamooka women, weaving has become their intergenerational expression of saltwater identity and culture. This work represents woven forms that continue knowledge of past generations and the stories and experiences of today. The woven forms include the use of discarded netting and materials that wash ashore on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) after drifting in the ocean. Collecting and weaving with this marine debris helps protect dabiyil as an act of caring for saltwater Country and kin. The collection of woven forms and objects are used to create the cyanotype. The process of cyanotype records the shape of the woven elements and materials when they are placed on the textile surface and exposed to UV light and washed in water and oxidize. This result creates deep blue imagery with the memory and impression of the objects. The blue cyanotype pigment reflects the rich colour of the Quandamooka seas. The layering of woven forms and found objects onto the cyanotype is a metaphoric expression of stories, experiences and histories that are embedded within sands, land, water, and sky of Quandamooka country, and are carried in the vessels of Quandamooka weaving.

Sonja, Elisa Jane and Freja Carmichael are Quandamooka women and descendants of the Ngugi people from Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island), Queensland, Australia. They are a family of artists and curators, and often work collaboratively to revive, nurture, and preserve cultural knowledge, practices and saltwater identity. The Carmichaels draw inspiration from the beauty of nature and create work sourced or made from the land and sea, celebrating the ongoing richness of Country and ancestral memory embodied in living materials.

The artwork was commissioned as part of Nuit Blanche 2022 with support of exhibition sponsor, Humber College.



Artist Bios

Sonja Carmichael works specifically in the medium of fibre basketry and woven sculptures, informed by her family’s cultural connections to the land and seas of Quandamooka. In her practice, she draws inspiration from the many stories connected to Quandamooka weaving, and also explores contemporary materials and techniques – in particular ‘ghostnets’ and fishing lines – that directly respond to concerns about the preservation of the natural environment. An active member in her community, Sonja is a leader in the regeneration of Quandamooka weaving, passing on cultural knowledge and skills through workshops, exhibitions, and field research. Her work is held in collections such as the Queensland Art Gallery, Museum of Brisbane, National Gallery of Victoria, National Museum of Australia, Australian Museum, Art Gallery of South Australia, and Redland Art Gallery. 

Elisa Jane Carmichael’s practice explores the beauty of nature and surrounding environments, drawing inspiration from her cultural identity and heritage. Elisa has a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University (Brisbane, Australia); and a Master of Fine Arts, QUT (Brisbane). She has created woven wearable collections that have been included in Cairns Indigenous Art Fair Fashion program and Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, Virginia, USA. 

Elisa Jane Carmichael is further developing her practice through both new techniques and materials acknowledging, nurturing, and protecting her culture and the resources of Quandamooka Country. Her unique explorations into contemporary Quandamooka weaving and vivacious use of colour and materials, are becoming more distinctly recognised by esteemed industry colleagues across the country. Elisa draws upon her practice to reflect on visual ancestral experiences of Quandamooka Bujong Djara (Mother Earth), to share the beauty, power, and importance of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) yesterday, today, and tomorrow—ngayigany, ngayiganya, ngayigawa (seen, seeing, will see). 

Freja Carmichael is a curator, arts worker and writer. She has worked extensively across the Australian Indigenous visual arts sector on exhibition projects, community collaborations, collection research and publications with art centres, contemporary art spaces and national and international art organisations. Her practice centres on preserving and promoting Indigenous fibre practices and embedding Indigenous curatorial approaches. Freja has completed a Master of Museum Studies at UQ and is undertaking PhD research on Indigenous fibre practices in southeast Queensland with the School of Communication and Arts (UQ). 



Wagari: Dabiyil, Biram at Nuit Blanche 2022 (Etobicoke Hub - Humber College Lakeshore)

All photos by Patrick Leung