What’s the idea behind Gaining Ground?
The exhibition explores craft practises across the world that are in tune with nature and connected to their localities – whether that’s in, say, the Philippines, the UK or the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Each of the nine featured projects are part of the British Council’s Crafting Futures programme. They focus largely on areas where the practise and passing down of heritage crafts has been disrupted or undermined by extractive capitalist activities. Medium-wise, the show is incredibly varied, spanning everything from basketry and woven textiles to ceramics.
How do these makers work in close harmony with nature?
It varies from project to project – each depends on its local environment and its craft traditions. One example is the broom-makers from Western Java, who use bark fibres from the local palm tree, called kawung. They use harvesting methods that have been passed down over generations – the entire trees can be utilised, including the leaves, fruit and sap, so nothing is wasted. The bark fibres only appear for the first 10 years of the trees’ life, and the palms rely on weasels to disperse their seeds, so working with this material requires ecological balance to be well-maintained. Gaining Ground features beautiful brooms made in this tradition by Mr Sunarya and Mr Hendrayana from Bojong, Purwakarta, which is one of Indonesia’s centres for crafting with palm fibre.