Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Award 2023
A Kyamba Foundation Project
10 June - 20 August
This nationally acclaimed biennial acquisitive prize exhibition celebrates the diversity and strength of Australian textile art. Building on Wangaratta's long and prominent history of textile manufacturing, and craft making, the Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Award furthers this unique tradition and social history by elevating and promoting the development of contemporary textile practice in Australia.
Now in its eighth year, 2023 saw a significant increase in the award’s prize money from $10,000 to $40,000. Thanks to the generous investment of partners, the Kyamba Foundation, the award presents excellence in textile practice from across the nation.
This year’s finalists were selected by Yorta Yorta curator Belinda Briggs, Shepparton Art Museum and Nanette Orly, Curator, Murray Art Museum Albury. Judging the Award this year was Dr Rebecca Coates, an accomplished museum director, curator, public speaker, writer, and lecturer.
Finalists & Winners
Winner | Sepideh Farzam
Losing Eyes for Freedom, 2023
Sepideh Farzam, a Sydney based Iranian contemporary artist, was announced as the winner of the prestigious $40,000 biennial acquisitive Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Award for 2023 for her work Losing Eyes for Freedom, 2023 at the official opening at the Wangaratta Art Gallery on Saturday 10 June.
The collaborative work was driven by the Farzam’s observation and deep concern around the ongoing discrimination and severe restrictions of women’s rights in Iran. The work is inspired by the recent protests by women on the streets of Iran, following the death in police custody of young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, who was detained by the morality police for wearing her hijab or hair covering incorrectly. As a result, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands more imprisoned for demonstrating against the regime. Protesters have been violently attacked, and 500 were blinded as a consequence.
Inspired by these terrible events, Sepideh Farzam commissioned a craft-woman (unnamed) to hand weave a carpet representing the young women hand in hand. Farzam then hand-stitched waxed threads through each girls’ face to represent the bleeding and blind eyes.
Judge Dr Rebecca Coates comments:
“This year, I was looking for artists’ works that demonstrate an excellence in material practice in whatever form, and which talked to our shared understanding of the world in which we live. A work that touched the heart, the mind, and the soul. The winning work by Sepideh Farzam, Losing Eyes for Freedom (2023), a handwoven carpet with waxed threads, is impressive in scale, collaborative in nature, and speaks to our times. Like many of the weaving traditions it draws on, it made through collaboration. And like many traditional crafts often done by women, alludes to the often-invisible nature of many of these repetitive tasks.
The work also talks to a larger truth, and the systemic abuse and treatment of women in many countries that continues to this day: forbidden to drive, forbidden to go to school, forbidden to protest, and the results of what, for us, are every-day acts. These are conversations that must continue to be had in a country like Australia, and ones that we can’t take for granted."
Highly Commended, Ruth Amery Award | Kyra Mancktelow
One continuous string, 2021
The winning work for the Highly Commended Ruth Amery Award was Kyra Mancktelow, One continuous string. Mancktelow, a Quandamooka woman with links to the Mardigan people of Cunnamulla, is a Brisbane based multidisciplinary contemporary artist whose practice investigates legacies of colonialism, posing important questions such as how we remember and acknowledge Indigenous histories.
In the highly commended work, Mancktelow recreates the uniforms First Nations children were forced to wear at Moongalba (Myora mission). The attempt at assimilation was weakened by continuing traditional weaving practices.
The 2023 Award exhibition features 29 finalists selected from over 300 entries.
A beautiful hardcopy catalogue featuring this year's finalist works, is also available for purchase from the Gallery.
Sepideh Farzam, Losing Eyes for Freedom, 2023, hand woven carpet, waxed threads, 210 x 166cm.
Kyra Mancktelow, One continuous string,2021, hand woven carpet and waxed threads, 97 x 75 x 40cm.