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The Crimson Thread of Kinship

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The Crimson Thread of Kinship is a 12-metre-long embroidery representing the unfolding story of Australia. It depicts the changing landscape of the nation, beginning with Aboriginal occupation of the continent and finishing in the southern night sky. Designed by Sharon Peoples, the embroidery was created by the ACT Embroiderers' Guild to mark Australia's Centenary of Federation in 2001. Eighty-five women worked for 5500 hours to complete the project. The guild donated the embroidery to the National Museum of Australia as a gift to the nation.

The Crimson Thread of Kinship represents Australian history from its beginnings to the Centenary of Federation in 2001. A crimson thread carried by a silver embroidery needle loops through the centre of the work, drawing along with it papers symbolising legal documents and political events. Over the course of its journey, the thread moves through fragments of Australian history. Images of seashells, flint and other discarded items from an Aboriginal midden float up from the land to meet new shapes thrown up by a curling wave. Below, the landscape takes shape as a range of mountains changing from bush to farm to suburb. A road leads back into an unmarked landscape, which then gradually dissolves into the darkening sky. Scattered among the stars are small remnants of domestic life: a teapot, a cup and saucer, and a knife and fork.

We became really aware of our surroundings — the shape of a big gum tree nearby, the inside bits of shells, Australian roads through the landscape. People often think of embroidery as fancy work — making doilies and supper cloths. We see it as an evolving art form.

Margaret Thompson, embroiderer