Australian and Papua Niuginian (New Guinean) multidisciplinary artist, educator, and researcher Lisa Hilli highlights the (in)visibility of Black and Melanesian women, through photography, video, textiles, and installations with a historical sensitivity to different languages, tools, and formats. Drawing in part from her autobiography as a Tolai/Gunantuna woman, her story becomes interwoven with the agency of Papua Niuginian women, and their struggles. Keep Your Bush Knife Sharp #BrukimBus acknowledges the Melanesian women that bring about their own change through a series of intervened archival materials such as political history posters showing the vibrancy of resistances led by Papua Niuginian women during the 1960s and 70s, a time of radical activism in the Pacific Island nations and globally, including the Kafaina and Nilai Ra Varden movements. As part of Hilli’s ongoing research and civic engagement, the posters are shown in print and via social media, situating them in a broader dynamic of circulating Oceanic knowledges. These reworked images become a visual narrative centred on the meri blaus (women’s blouse), a dress appropriated from missionary influence, made and worn by everyday, grassroots women of Papua Niugini. Meri blaus making continues to be a viable skill and form of economic income for women across Melanesia, using textiles as an unexpected yet central form of knowledge.

Commissioned by Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), co-produced by Lisa Hilli and HKW, 2023.

Work in the exhibition: Keep Your Bush Knife Sharp #BrukimBus (2023), series of intervened photographs, prints, dimensions vary Courtesy of the artist