The Black Swan: Suite - August 2014

Artist - Sundari Carmody

Author - Ansie van der Walt


Marching. Stitching.

Even paced and rhythmic

Steadily moving forward in a predetermined direction

A grey floor and white washed walls lends a stark and factory-like air to the mostly empty space. Each wall graced by one exhibit only. The black swan-emblazoned banner on the far wall confirms the name of the exhibition, but I am drawn to the dark blue sky map on the southern wall. Somehow this feels like the start of the journey.

Inspired by the life of her great, great aunt Elizabeth Grover, a World War I nurse and suffragette in London, Sundari Carmody traces her own journey through the universe by stitching a route through the stars. There are few similarities between the lives of Elizabeth and Sundari, but the view of the sky, although distant and remote, seems to be the closest connection.

Working in small even stitches, making their way from one constellation to the next, the white cotton thread marks progress, life lived and a journey travelled. The route takes shape as the days pass and Sundari adds more stitches. Destination unknown and unplanned, the rhythm of the stitches lends purpose to the journey.

On the next wall, the dark blue and silver-white of the sky map are repeated and intensified in the Black Swan banner. The stars are brighter, closer, more intense. The banner speaks of pride, defiance, a strong will and an unwavering belief in what is right. Elizabeth carried a similar flag during the 'monster march' of the suffragettes. Her journey, marked by suffering and caring for the injured, was committed and her progress steady.

On the third wall a single screen shows the video "March of the Black Swan." By recreating Elizabeth's march with the banner, Sundari helps to carry her load, share her burden and walk in her shoes. Two journeys becoming one. Sundari, in a grey dress, her face obscured behind the banner, keeps her pace steady and focused.

The dark backdrop of bleak factories and grey skies act as the connecting thread, bringing the four exhibits together. At the front of the gallery, becoming an essential part of the fourth exhibit, Sundari sits at a work table, stitching a series of factory dresses similar to the one she wears during the march, and most probably similar to the ones the suffragettes were wearing during their march many years ago.

Here stitching and marching becomes one. Steady progress. For the duration of the exhibition Sundari becomes part of the installation. Her methodical practice of cutting fabric and stitching dresses marks her progress - her journey.

Although each element has a stark and somewhat sombre quality to it, the exhibition has an air of optimism and purpose about it. By finding a tactile connection to her forbearer, Sundari creates a direct link - a thread, binding them together. Empathy for each other's journey seems to be vital to Sundari. And although the destination is unclear; the journey is purposeful and steady. Like marching. Like stitching.


Ansie is a freelance writer and blogger, specializing in finding the story behind textile and fiber art.
She loves travel, architecture and good design.
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