70th Anniversary of the United Declaration of Human Rights

On Saturday 8th December 2018 I flew to Canberra to visit the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.  When I arrived it was buzzing out front as there was an enormous motorcycle rally taking place.  I wandered around taking pictures before I went in as this was my first visit.  It was a spontaneous decision to attend the United Declaration of Human Rights Quilt Project workshop by embroiderer Rebecca Ray and I was excited to be there. Monday 10th December 2018 it was seventy years since the United Declaration of Human Rights document was written to avoid the atrocities of WWII happening again.

I entered the Great Hall built in 1927 and was in awe of the wooden floor, made from Tasmanian hardwood.  The entire building is filled with wood and contains 900 clocks!  It is a fascinating place to see in person as this was in operating till 1988 when the New Parliament House opened.  So many historical political moments took place in this building.

When I stumbled across the Chamber of the House of Representatives I stopped breathing for a few seconds.  There was a tour taking place and when that finished the guide suggested a photo holding the Mace which is a symbol of democracy as it traditionally protects the Speaker of the House and is always present during a parliamentary sitting.  Although I studied Politics in Year 12, my knowledge is a little light on so her information was informative and eye-opening.

With Elizabeth the guide taking me under her wing we walked around to the Party Room and the Prime Ministers office.  Both had original furniture and the Prime Ministers office was particularly fascinating as it was laid out like a working office with paperwork, clothing, voice over....it took me back in time. I learnt that the PM office could loan artwork from the National Gallery. Here's a photo of the Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser's office.

Time was moving quickly so after a snack in the Terrace Cafe on the ground floor I made my way to the UDHR Craftivism exhibition being held along the main corridor across from the Senate Chamber.  It was a moving moment to see the Blue Quilt for the first time with my Article 4: Ban on Slavery quilt block.

I was there just in time for the start of the workshop where one of the UDHR artists Rebecca Ray has designed a commemorative embroidery sampler pattern that she will make over next few months and share over Instagram. She explained the symbolism in her design and gave some embroidery tips. I found her very inspirational and articulate.  Her work is exquisite.  

During the workshop each of the UDHR artists spoke about their process and what the project has meant to them including Tal Fitzpatrick (one of organisers), Rebecca Ray, Naomi Atkins and myself.  It appears that every artist in this project has found it significant in some way.  Each artists block and story can now be explored at the new website www.quilts.moadoph.gov.au.

The workshop seems to fly by in a flash and afterwards I remained behind in the space to enjoy the quilts.  There was certainly not enough time to look at all the blocks and read the computer blurbs so I will need to return.  A good excuse!  Here's my block on the computer.

The team of the Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAd) have offered a generous invitation to the public to hire their beautiful craft space while this exhibition is on.  For a small fee groups can meet in this safe space that looks out onto the Tent Embassy which was started in 1972.  It is a special place to make and talk so if you have a group that would like to use this space, just let me know or contact the MoAd team on info@moadoph.gov.au or 02 6270 8222.

For the last few hours of my visit I wandered around the museum and was very taken with the Parliamentary Library which is now an exhibit to Human Rights Issues in Australia.  Many of you know I love a good library and this one was no exception.  It used to be the "Hub" of Parliament House so I read.

It was a truly enriching day catching up with and meeting inspiring people, seeing the four quilts from the UDHR project in person, getting a feeling for the exhibition space and learning more about democracy.  One of the many things I love about Craftivism is that it gives me a way to contribute to our nation and community as a form of "do it yourself citizenship", a term coined by Tal Fitzpatrick.  I feel grateful to have this style of working as part of my art practice.

As I said in the above Instagram post when I arrived at Canberra Airport to fly home, do yourself a favour and visit the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House in Canberra, ACT.  It is open 9-5 daily.  You will need at least four hours to see it all but possibly more.  And remember the UDHR exhibition is on at least until June 2019.  There are lots of exciting things being planned for the crafting space for next year, so I will keep you posted.  It really is a wonderful exhibition and worth a visit.  I will definitely be back again next year!

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