Founder of One Million Stars to End Violence speaks at Mathers today
By Sanya Ali
Attendees of the 23rd annual Lotus World Music & Arts Festival that begins today will have the opportunity to be part of a global movement as they listen to international artists perform.
Maryann Talia Pau started the One Million Stars to End Violence project in 2012 following the rape and murder of a local woman in her town of Brunswick, Australia. The international project invites people worldwide to weave ribbon stars to be included in a larger exhibition in 2018.
Pau united her background in the art of weaving with a need to bring awareness to issues surrounding all types of violence in order to begin the project, she said during her speech at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures on Wednesday evening. Mary Clare Bauman, chair of the Lotus Education & Arts Foundation, introduced Pau to the audience of students and residents.
“This collaborative effort aims to bring together all the one million stars woven by participants and communities around the world by July 2017 for a major installation at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games,” Bauman said.
The beginning of Pau’s artistic weaving career followed the approval of a knowledgeable craftswoman, known as Aunty Rosalyn, at a conference. The experienced artist told her she had a natural skill for the craft, Pau said.
Having not woven since the age of eight during her childhood in Auckland, New Zealand, the conference gave Pau the opportunity to rediscover the skills she had not practiced for a long time.
“I felt like my hands woke up, like I had found this thing I had been meant to be doing,” Pau said. “It was so strong and so moving that she said to me, ‘You’re meant to weave.’”
Pau said she went home and repurposed an old mat of her mother’s into a breastplate, one of many crafts Pau creates using the dried mat material.
Since that initial piece, Pau’s work has been shown in a variety of contexts. A few of her pieces are on display at the National Gallery of Victoria, others were worn by models during the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival in 2011 and some were bought by friends to wear in everyday life.
Pau said the tragedy that was the murder of that local woman, which occurred around the corner from Pau’s church and studio, sparked in her a desire to do something greater.
“It had an incredible impact on our community of Brunswick — 20,000 people marched down the road, public transport stopped, businesses closed down,” Pau said. “There was an incredible outpouring of emotion: grief, anger, shock, anger that this story was receiving so much attention when the ones before weren’t and probably the one after.”
Pau said the idea to craft the stars arose after a vigil at the local church, when a group of community members including Pau decided to collect messages for the woman who was killed and Pau realized she did not know what to write.
“I’d never met this woman, and yet here I am seeing women crying, reaching into their own grief and their own stories of losing children to violent relationships. Young, strong men crying because they were home, and if they had known, they would have done something,” Pau said.
A quote by Martin Luther King Jr. about how the only way to drive out darkness is through the introduction of light set in motion her idea to add more light to the world through hand crafted stars, Pau said.
The Bloomington community has committed 10,000 stars to the project, a goal that Pau said will be easy to reach if everyone attending the festival this weekend crafts one. Thanks to cooperation by the Eskenazi Museum of Art, the Mathers Museum and other Bloomington spaces, 3,000 are already complete.
There will be opportunities to craft the stars on Friday and Saturday evening, and Pau will lead a workshop starting at 12 p.m. on Saturday.
“It’s a beautiful way to connect with other people, to remember that there are other people doing amazing things in their community,” Pau said. “It’s just four pieces of ribbon, you do some fancy folds and you have a beautiful eight-point star. For many communities, there’s a really deep healing and meaning in those stars.”
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