Creative Rebellion and Joyful Defiance
I’m from Melbourne, Australia, and god, I love my town. I love her streets and her culture. I love her architecture and gardens. I love how the weather is notoriously ‘four seasons in one day’ and how Melburnians will nevertheless argue that Sydney gets more rain (just all at once instead of spread out) and that Brisbane’s too humid anyway and has no dress sense.
But most of all, I love the people of Melbourne. The artists and writers, the political activists and social agitators, the entrepreneurs and the hipsters and the way we’ll go out and march for progressive causes, whatever the weather.
And sometimes, the women of my town combine their art and their activism by knitting or crocheting stuff and sewing it onto public objects: trees, benches, bicycle racks, statues and – most recently – ugly concrete bollards designed to stop vile people (sadly, we have those too) from murderous driving sprees through pedestrian malls.
Yarnbombing (also called knit graffiti and urban knitting) originated in the US in the mid-2000s. The idea of a soft graffiti and non-violent protest – which may be aimed at beautifying spaces that are intimidating or at ridiculing power and privilege – appeals strongly to me. Men may yarnbomb as well, but with its origins in crafting, it’s always felt a particularly female form of social commentary and reclamation of public space.
Often when describing how the lovers in Near Miss meet, I need to stop and explain yarnbombing, the activity that draws them together after several wanting-to-but-not-quite-meetings. People are always astonished at the word itself, and even moreso at the idea of it. ‘Yarnbombing’ always makes them smile.
We’re hungry for things that can make us smile right now. It feels like the world is burning (or that it needs to be set on fire). It’s hard to find ways to fight those fires (or the urge to set them) and maintain self-care.
I love that there’s an activity which is an act of protest that’s also an act of creativity, which can also be an act of love and self-care. Finding excuses for celebration and joy are part of how we stand against dark times, and reclaim our spaces from those who wish to violate them or deny them to the broader community when it won’t fit their narrow definitions of who belongs.
Soft-textured rebellion and protest that springs from care and creativity has a place in the broader landscape of protest, resistance and social commentary. Yarnbombing is by no means the only (or even most effective) way to object to unsafe spaces, regression to fascism, and denial of human rights. A rainbow shield of wool and sass won’t necessarily protect us from the aggression of those who view people not like them as less than human.
However, there’s a role for oddly confrontational soft crafts, ridicule via brightly coloured yarn, and the humour and playfulness of creativity. They remind us of our humanity, our connections, our joy and our capacity to survive and rise above.
On the creative streets of Melbourne, through optimism and guerrilla knitting, Glory and Ness find love.
Let’s be like Glory and Ness and seek to hang onto joyfulness in the midst of defiance.
Narrelle M Harris writes crime, horror, fantasy and romance. Her 30+ novels and short stories include vampire books The Opposite of Life and Walking Shadows, an erotic spy adventure series, erotic lesbian romance, traditional Holmesian mysteries, and the Holmes/Watson romance The Adventure of the Colonial Boy set in Australia in 1893. Queer paranormal thriller-romance, Ravenfall, was released in 2017. Find out more about her work at www.narrellemharris.com.
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