L O V E – by Amber Women’s Refuge.

LOVE - Amber Women's Refuge

“We are raising awareness of domestic abuse and healthy and unhealthy relationships. We stand together in solidarity against violence.” – @irelandstarweavers

(l-r) Lisa Morris, Amber Women’s Refuge, Stella Coughlan and Siobhán McQuillan. L O V E exhibition last week at Kilkenny City Hall.
Steel words by JM Steel Kilkenny. photo: @irelandstarwevers 2021

I continue to marvel at the woven star installations and activations that are happening around the world. One Billion Stars workshops and displays are blossoming in parts of the globe that I could only dream of visiting. And with our new reality of needing to physically distance to reduce the spread of COVID, star weaving is the kind of activity that anyone can pick and participate anywhere, anytime. All you need are star weaving materials, access to our video tutorial or pdf instructions.

Some of these communities have embraced the stars so much, that they have written to ask if they can be translated into some of their local languages, including Japanese and Syrian. Some communities have created their own videos of star weaving instructions using locally sourced materials.

The stars reaching across the world is largely due to the inclusive, gentle therapy that star weaving evokes. It’s no secret that the One Billion Stars project is a multi-layered project.

Some people are attracted to star weaving for one or more reasons:

  • It allows people to unite to end violence against women and other forms of violence such as bullying and racism.
  • Star weaving also encourages better mental health by offering a calm, repetitive activity.
  • It also represents Pasifika culture or connects us back to our own cultural memories of making and craft. Star weaving is an opportunity to remember the weaving crafts that many of our ancestors practised to make practical objects for the home and everyday life, but also for performances, dances, ceremonies, and decoration.
  • The stars are also about actively building community cohesion or connectedness by inviting people, often strangers to come and partake in a hands on activity. The main objective is to make a star in your own time.
  • There is also the element of talanoaga, of story telling. Star weaving honours the fact that everyone has a story to tell and listening is the most powerful thing we can do to help others heal.

Over the last 9 years years, I have witnessed people relax and start conversation without any prompts.

Being in Auckland for VTABS recently, I experienced how refreshing it is to have live conversations with each other, and not through the lens of our devices or social media platforms. The conversations were open, honest and without filters. They are often uplifting and full of laughter. I saw people feeling encouraged to discuss ideas, tried and tested solutions, sharing hopes and dreams for the future. There is also a safe silence which is meditative and comforting to some of our star weavers.

We are weaving stars, having conversations and we are connecting to a basic desire which is to make and be in respectful relationship with others in our communities. We are building communities from the bottom-up. We are empowering ourselves to create a social movement based on our terms and in our spaces. We are practising what it means to be in community, with people like us, with people who are polar opposites and with those whose paths we may have never crossed if not for the Samoan and Pasifika practise of weaving.

L O V E, now on display at the Medieval Mile Museum, Kilkenny Ireland. Photo: @irelandstarweavers instagram 2021

One of the star weaving communities that continues to inspire me are the Ireland Star Weavers, led by Siobhán McQuillan. They have an instagram page and facebook page that you can follow as well to keep up to date.

Currently at the Medieval Mile Museum, in Kilkenny Ireland, there is a stunning installation of oversized steel letters that spell the word L O V E. These 2 meter steel letters were created and donated by JM Steel Cuffesgrange, Kilkenny for Amber Women’s Refuge. They are being filled with woven stars by locals who have been impacted by domestic violence and who believe that people coming together to weave stars can unite against all forms of violence, including violence against women, bullying and racism. These star weavers are members of the community for Amber Women’s Refuge One Million Stars Ireland.

These words were first displayed at Macdonagh Junction Shopping Centre during the 16 Days of Activism last year, Nov 16 to Dec 1. They remained on display over the Christmas holiday beneath a beautiful installation of 10,000 woven stars.

I even had the privilege of joining them on Nov 27th last year via zoom, to talk to them and wish them well on their star weaving journey.

Last week these star letters were at Kilkenny City Hall, each star a symbol of light, hope and solidarity to end violence and before that they were at Kilkenny Castle.

In August last year, their exhibition CONNECTED formed part of Design and Craft Council of Irelands Sculpture Trail. 3,000 stars woven during the first lockdown were displayed in The Medieval Mile Museum as a symbolic representation of a connected community in solidarity against all forms of violence.

These active star weavers are also partnering with local businesses to display woven stars in their shop windows to promote the message of standing together against domestic violence.
#amberstarhost

What Ireland Star Weavers have achieved to date fills me with joy and inspires new star weavers around the world to join in and make change.

Their commitment to bring people together and to keep the conversation of ending domestic violence alive is energising. You can read a short testimonial from Siobhán here.

There is so much great literature out in the world about the what makes a social movement successful and the benefits of the arts on mental health.

Installing these stars is a team effort. Acknowledging Fred Morton, Thomas Morton, Joe Lacey & Pat Cummins from the Kilkenny COCO team, Anthony Drohan Kilkenny Civic Trust/Medieval Mile Museum, Volunteer Stella Coughlan and Siobhán McQuillan. photo: @irelandstarweavers instagram 2021.

This is one example:

“The practices of successful movements grow their grassroots, strengthen their movement’s momentum with connection, collaboration, and small wins, and ripple out to activate more individuals, communities, and organizations. These practices include building grassroots momentum, assembling networked movements, being leaderful, broadening the network by forming coalitions of organizations, and winning hearts and minds. “ Together We Rise: How Social Movements Succeed.*

If we are to make a lasting impact on domestic violence, racism, bullying and inequities, then we need to create social movements that help all of us to rise. Where ever we are in the world, if we can do something that keeps us accountable and part of a movement that can be embraced by communities to lead it themselves, this is success. This is what drives us at One Billion Stars.

Power to the People.

Star weaving in solidarity. Always.

Maryann

* Gia Nardini. University of Denver

Tracy Rank-Christman. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Melissa G. Bublitz. University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Samantha N. N. Cross. Iowa State University

Laura A. Peracchio. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Vaka to A Billion Stars

Vaka to A Billion Stars
Vaka to A Billion Stars. Woven Star Installation. Matariki Festival 2021.
Vaka to A Billion Stars. Designed by Numa Mackenzie, Marc Conaco and Raymond Sagapolutele.

This week, I’ll be making my way across the moana to Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland Aotearoa New Zealand.

I’ll be launching a woven star installation of over 300,000 stars at Silo 6, Silo Park. Excited!

It feels surreal, preparing for international travel. The last time I flew overseas was home to Samoa before travel bans took place for community safety.

I haven’t been back for almost 2 years. And like many who have been separated from loved ones, it has been challenging for my mental health.

During these times of physical distancing, star weaving has been more than a meaningful Pacific Island and Indigenous weaving craft for social change.

Weaving is my therapy and important for my wellbeing and community connection.

I’ve even taken up outrigger canoeing, just as my ancestors have done before me! Every time I paddle, I know that across this ocean are my family. Even though I can’t be with them, I know that they are safe and well. When the time is right, we can all travel home.

For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in Tāmaki Makaurau and did most of my primary schooling there.

Looking back as an adult and now mother of school children, I have many happy memories of learning and playing as a child.

Before I understood what racism, sexism, violence and discrimination was, I had teachers that helped me believe that I could do any profession. The only barrier was my attitude and application.

These teachers made learning fun and rewarding and encouraged me to try all kinds of things with a spirit of enthusiasm and excellence. I enjoyed performing and singing in the school play, inter-school sports and leadership roles. I also loved volunteering to do before and after school pedestrian crossing (one of my favourite things to do at school : ) science and maths.

I’m excited to return to my other home, Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud.

This has been a long time of dreaming and a few months in the making, working with Reina Sutton and Auckland Council. And how special that the stars will be on display during the Matariki Festival, which is currently on between 19 June – 11 July 2021.

Matariki is the Māori New Year and is celebrated annually across Aotearoa.

This particular New Year Festival celebrates all the things that One Billion Stars values, acknowledging timeless relationships between creation, sky, land, waters and people and celebrating our connection to each other and the possibilities for healing, empathy and progress.


“The Rise of Matariki in the winter skies above Aotearoa is an important time in the Māori calendar, as it signifies the start of the Māori new year. For Māori, astronomy was interwoven into all facets of life.

Experts would observe the night sky, charting star and planet movements, the relationship of the stars and planets to the moon and sun, while also noting what was happening on the whenua (land) and in the moana (ocean), lakes and awa (rivers). All of these celestial star beings were attributed qualities and named accordingly, and their stories were woven into the history of the people.

Historically, new year celebrations provided the opportunity for whanau to come together to acknowledge the year gone by, prepare and plan for the year ahead; to celebrate with kai, korero, ceremony and entertainment. For a time, these celebrations were only acknowledged and celebrated by iwi, but at the beginning of the 21 st century a cultural renaissance occurred, making knowledge of this special time of the year an important part of New Zealand’s history.

Today, everyone in Aotearoa can celebrate the unique places we live in, show respect for the land we live on, and to share and grow together through traditions that continue each year, with the support of kaupapa like Matariki Festival.” – Matariki Festival

A woven tar, made from pandanus. Photo: Alexia Costello-Rae. Ocean Club Maninoa Samoa.

The timing of the stars in Auckland for Matariki Festival feels like a second wind, a chance to action some fresh creative ideas and muster up some more courage to try new things before the end of 2021.

The journey of One Billion Stars is just starting, with incredible activations in Austin Texas and Kilkenny Ireland this year.

These weaving communities continue to build momentum and impact lives for the better.

My hope is that by creating more woven star installations around the world for communities to engage with and contribute to, they will help remind us that we can each make positive change.

Working together makes the work less daunting, less impossible, and more joyful. Bringing people together, finding common ground and building cultures of respect is so possible. It can also be fun! This is what star weaving for the One Billion Stars movement has taught us.

If you are in Auckland, please drop in with your friends, work or school communities to see Vaka to A Billion Stars.

Be a part of the journey to weave one billion stars by taking part in their free workshops and public programmes. Everyone is welcome. #VTABS

You don’t have to be in Auckland to enjoy learning how to weave a star. Check out our star weaving kits that you can buy online to do in your own time or with colleagues and friends.

If you’d like to create a woven star installation in your workplace or centre, please contact us hello@onebillionstars.net. We can meet in person or via zoom to discuss workshops and installations.

Vaka to A Billion Stars
When: Sunday 27 June – 18 July. Sunday 27 June. 2-4pm + Wednesday 30 June. 1-3pm Talanoa/Artist talk + star weaving workshop with Maryann Talia Pau.
Where: Silo 6, Silo Park, Wynyard Quarter. Auckland City
Cost: Free Suitable for: All ages

This installation is free, wheel chair accessible and family friendly. Please tag us in any of your star weaving photos using the hashtag #VTABS

Be well and Happy Matariki!
Maryann x