In 50 days, the world is going to see the first ever installation of one million woven stars in one place, hand made by remarkable people around the world for one purpose. Peace.
As the clock ticks down, I am bracing myself for all kinds of responses and questions. Awe, joy, peace, comfort, courage, inspiration, connection, disappointment, frustration, confusion and sadness. I’m ready for all of it. I’m ready for sunshine and rain, praise and apathy, big ups and put downs. I will try my very best not to take the negativity personally (this is when my family will come around me) because I know deep down, that everyone involved in this 6year journey has worked together the best way we know how, with the resources we had access to, to make my vision of bringing people together through star weaving a reality.
The last 2 years has been a weaving of significant partners, brilliant people with crazy fantastic skills in navigating government protocols, understanding community expectations and needs, supporting my vision and values, and practical things like counting, sorting, social media, contracts, budgets, designing, leading and problem solving to help carry and grow this beautiful beast. Queensland Government came on board in 2016 and I still remember the day we made the media announcement at the State Library of Queensland South Bank in February, just before my son’s 16th birthday. I was more nervous about what to wear and not wanting to make a big fuss about it. So of course, I rock up wearing one of my beloved’s oversized island shirts, big woven green and pink earrings to match and an old friend’s shell necklace. Not wanting to draw attention to myself at all! I probably wasn’t what Minister Stirling Hinchliffe and Minister Shannon Fentiman was expecting, but, we had a fun star weave jam. We captured some great pics and nervous laughs when it started getting a bit competitive and a few quick words to staff cameras. I think it’s safe to say, the Ministers and I didn’t know what to expect that morning, or what this project could turn into and achieve. Even with 4 years of growing the project myself, self-funding most of my travel to do star weaving workshops and meeting strangers now transformed by star weaving, even I could not have imagined the reach and impact these beautiful stars are making the world over. And I NEVER could have anticipated that the first ever display of one million stars for peace and an end to violence would be part of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games arts and cultural program, Festival2018! The Minister’s remain engaged and curious and they always greet me with confidence and support whenever our paths cross. Team Human Ventures came on board that year as well, to oversee the huge task of counting, sorting and storing the stars plus social media and community engagement, and in early 2017, Museum of Brisbane won the tender to design, engineer and present this massive display of one million stars which have been lovingly woven by so many. It’s difficult to comprehend the enormity of it all and it’s easy, though innocent, to forget someone in the mix of it all. 6 years and so many hands. And here we all are, waiting to see the one thing that connects us all. The stars.
If you didn’t get a chance to read my blog post on Christmas day, please do. It’s related to this one, but let’s not get too distracted. I mention it now because it really helped me to understand whether I am like Moana or the Magi, and more importantly, how identifying as one of them is helping me to receive and embrace the stars on Thursday 29 March. My Christmas post was a result of a healing conversation with Mark, my beloved and clever husband, who some of you might meet during the installation. He helped me to understand more deeply my relationship to the stars and I encourage you have a read and work out whether you are more like Moana or the Magi.
Back to our countdown.
With Kate Jefferay, Brisbane artist and star weaver & believer a the Museum of Brisbane workshop, Acacia Ridge. Photo: Michelle, Museum of Brisbane.
When I touched the stars again last month at the Museum of Brisbane workshop, I remembered again how special this project is. I was surrounded by good peeps, Michelle Jamie, Alix, Jill, Lisa and Louise, Kirra-Lee and important others whose name’s I’ve forgotten (Sorry!). There was some filming and lots of ‘wows’ and questions and big feelings of relief. This is a BIG DEAL. What we are doing has never been done before. We come from all corners of the earth, we have personal stuff going on and we are coming together to make this happen for each other and for our star weavers. Yes, this is a job for some of us. But there is something else at play here. Yes, this project can be annoying and tiring sometimes, but there is so much goodness. THIS IS AMAZING!!! And this moment of one million stars in one place will be like no other.
More conversations are happening in my head as we count down and work to the last hour of this installation going up. This is one that I had with myself on the train earlier this week. Verbatim.
So, Maryann, why do you think the One Million Stars project has been so successful? Why do you think it got this kind of response? I mean, you made it! Star weavers around the world helped you reach your goal of one million stars! (some of my responses are standard and you’ve heard them before, but go with it)
Hmmmm, I think the one million stars project has been successful for at LEAST 3 reasons.
The first is that this project seeks to be inclusive. Star weaving helps to cut through race, gender, politics, faith, abilities and economics. It doesn’t matter who you are and where you live in the world, there will be some form of violence impacting your community. The purpose of weaving these stars is to INVITE PEOPLE IN to sit down, feel safe and included and to weave these symbols of light so that we can STAND TOGETHER. People of all shapes and sizes, colours and genders and abilities have woven a star for this one million star installation.
The second reason is that star weaving is fun. It’s therapeutic and a gentle way to engage in this complex conversation of how do we end violence and create peace and safety. Communities, governments and leaders are understanding that it’s actually really difficult to talk about violence in our personal lives, in our workplaces, in our villages and communities and in our nations at large. How do we start to talk about it, how do we encourage others and what can we do to change it? I decided to have a go by saying, “Hey, why don’t we start by making something together. This is a craft that comes from the Pacific and it’s an important symbol of hope and life for me. I would love to show you.”
The third reason is that the One Million Stars project is a creative solution that encourages people to do more than weave a star. Sometimes the hardest part is starting, a lot of us can feel overwhelmed and paralysed into inaction because there is so much violence, hate and destruction in our communities. Star weaving helps to create conversations, conversations inspire connections, sharing of information, learning new things. When we feel a part of something bigger, when we feel competent and capable, we feel energised to do more for our families, our communities and more importantly for ourselves. We feel part of the solution and my hope, is that people will seek out more solutions and goodness and create it as well……
Here’s the other conversation that followed, before I reached the end of my train line.
Don’t be fooled by the gentleness and niceties of this project.
The hustle is real. The impact is powerful. The transformation gives life. The work to end violence is at the forefront of my mind every day.
I’m in this for the long run. Stars or no stars, I hope this is everyone’s mission.
This SHOULD be our mission. For our children, our elders, our brothas and sistas.
No means no, show respect, acknowledge our history, be part of the solution and the reconciliation process. Don’t touch other people’s hair. Don’t ask people where they’re from unless you’re prepared to say where you’re REALLY from. Say thank you, sorry and please. Help someone carry their groceries if they’re struggling and stand up for someone who is being bullied. Understand where your judgement comes from and never think you’re better than anyone else. Everyone is battling.
If you’re not weaving a star, then I hope you’re doing something else.
I will always come in peace, but don’t ever mistake it for me being a push over.
I’m here to work. Get in formation or sit down and watch.
Don’t criticise me for doing something.
Create a platform. Include people. Encourage others. Sing, dance, act in Hollywood, make art, play sport or be a doctor or teacher.
Do something. There’s lots of work to do, so get on with it!
Cos weaving saved my life.
Cos weaving is art, it’s culture and it’s family, community and relationships.
For me weaving is life. Love. Healing.
Why star weaving?
Cos it reminds me to be light.
That I have to pick myself up and be part of the solution. For myself, for my family and community.
Cos I don’t want to live in fear - of what other people might think, of who might or might not support me or get it.
Cos I want to remember why I started this project. Cos I want to remember her, that she had a life and a family and a story before she was murdered.
What I’ve created, what I’ve started is something beautiful, on so many levels. And people who know the stars will tell you the same straight up.
My mama always says to me,
“Maryann, beautiful people make beautiful things.”
Thank you mama.