Ancestor Bags by Sue Hiley Harris
Weaver Sue Hiley Harris’s ancestor bags are on show at Bankfield Museum, Halifax (until 30 October)
This group of 30 free-standing sculptures made out of woven hand-dyed ramie and wool represent four generations of Australian-born Sue Hiley Harris’s family. They’re inspired by the indigenous Australian string bags given to Hiley Harris by her mother as well as ones seen in collections such as the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford (where they are labelled, ‘for carrying the bones of dead relatives’).
Hiley Harris has taken this simple form, elongated it and then applied a precise visual code detailing different pieces of information such as gender and age. This means that each sculpture represents specific family members, such as carpet weaver Thomas Hiley, her great-great-great grandfather. The finished sculptures are arranged in the form of a family tree so the gallery go-er is seemingly walking through a room full of ghostly family members – an effect which is increased by the skeletal, insubstantial look of each sculpture.