Two Branches Meet

Carol Macgregor's 'Not a tourist'

Have you ever wondered what your ancestors from different branches of the family tree might say to one another – how they might get along ­– if they were to meet and have a cup of tea together?

In Not a tourist (2017), Carol Macgregor imagines how her Aboriginal great-grandmother, Annie, and her Scottish grandmother, Clara, might have bonded over their skills in sewing, spinning, and knitting had they met.

Macgregor thinks they might have spent time sharing ‘stories about their handiwork, and trading information about materials and methods, engaging with each other and appreciative of the cultural exchange.’

Macgregor is a Brisbane-based artist of Wathaurung and Scottish descent. Her great-grandmother, Annie, may have used and made dilly bags like the three that McGregor made for Not a tourist. She used traditional methods to make these bags, using spun possum fur and natural wool as materials. Symbols made from strips of possum skin adorned with ochre have been woven into the fabric of each bag to create a physical connection to her family narrative and identity.

Macgregor critiques white representations of Aboriginal culture through a dress that accompanies the three bags. The simple linen shift is made from tea towels featuring representations of Aboriginal culture; appropriated and reproduced en masse for tourists visiting regional Australia.

A badge which reads ‘Greetings from Tamworth’ is pinned to the tea towel fabric which shows Aboriginal children, shield paintings, and weapons. Macgregor flips these images into a dress that makes the point that women like Annie were not tourists in their own country. She asserts that her ongoing connection to culture is forged through living creative practices – a connection that is, was, and always will be.