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Make your own woven tree figure, inspired by your connections with family friends and nature, and based on one of the artworks from the Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters exhibition at the National Museum of Australia.

For thousands of years Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have expressed their cultural identity through stories, people and the stars.

How to make a woven family tree figure

A woven artwork made from plant and man-made materials

In their Minyma Punu Kungkarangkalpa artwork, the Tjanpi Desert Weavers show the Seven Sisters turned into trees by the mischievous Wati Nyiru.

Artist Ilawanti Ken explains, 'The land inspires us to make things ... Because the Seven Sisters came from the land itself, we decided that we wanted them to [be] tree-like women.'

Can you think of a place that’s important to you and your family?

Imagine a tree from that place was one of your ancestors. What would it look like?

Start with an idea about your family or friends. How will you show them as a tree in your woven artwork?

A collection of craft materials are laid out on a white background. Some materials are plant-based and have the appearance of wood and brown string-like material, and others are a mixed coloured ball of wool and a pile of blue, black, white, orange and yellow pipe-cleaners.

Time: 30 minutes to one hour

Skill level: ** Moderate — you may need an adult helper when using scissors

What you need:

Indigenous artists use old and new materials in their artworks, sometimes using methods handed down through many generations.

Have a look around your house or garden to see what you can find.

 	A woven artwork piece made from plant and man-made materials

We used:

  • pipe cleaners
  • straws
  • wire
  • sticks
  • wool
  • raffia
  • string
  • grass
  • feathers
  • beads
  • scissors to cut material to size (remember scissors are sharp so ask an adult for help).

Step 1

A  bunch of straight twigs wrapped with twine.

Create your frame by twisting your base materials together. We used pipe cleaners.

Step 2

Bend the frame into a tree shape, creating roots at the bottom to help it stand up.

Step 3

Wind your weaving materials around the frame, starting at the bottom and working your way up. We used raffia to attach the grass to the frame.

A woven artwork piece made from plant and man-made materials

Wind the material tightly and close together, tying knots to keep everything in place.

Tip: Layering the material in one spot will fill out the shape.

If you need help don’t forget to ask.

Step 4

Add decorations as you go. We used blue wool to help make the face, and wove in emu feathers for arms.

Step 5

Tie knots to keep your materials in place and cut off any loose ends.

Tip: Experiment with materials and make your whole family in trees!

Share your creation

Ask an adult if you can send a photo or video to schoolholidays@nma.gov.au

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