The Woven Song: Embassy Tapestry Project

 Inspired by the Embassy Tapestry Collection, which places tapestries designed by Indigenous artists in Australian embassies around the world – Short Black Opera’s (SBO) soprano Deborah Cheetham AO, is developing a series of musical works that respond to each embassy tapestry.

Featuring nine new compositions by Cheetham the project celebrates works of art from an ancient culture, reinterpreted and recreated by the exceptional weavers at the Australian Tapestry Workshop, inspiring a contemporary response in current classical music practice. The nine Woven Song tapestries are currently on loan to Australian Embassies and High Commissions in New Delhi, Tokyo, Singapore, Washington DC, Paris, Rome, Dublin, The Holy See and Beijing.

Upon visiting the Australian Tapestry Workshop’s 'Catching Breath' tapestry designed by leading Australian artist Brook Andrew at the Singapore High Commission – SBO's Cheetham was compelled to compose contemporary responses in current classical music practice.

The first in the series of nine compositions premiered at the Esplanade Theatres on the Bay in Singapore in May 2018, with featured artists from Short Black Opera, the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. The next two works will premiered in Japan and India in 2019 and featured SBO artists with members of the Plexus and Rubiks Collectives.

A gala concert celebrating all nine works and the tapestries which inspired them is planned for early 2121 at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Melbourne couturier Linda Britten will create a new gown in response to each composition and the tapestries which have inspired them. This collection of gowns will be exhibited in Melbourne in late 2020.

The performances have been rich collaborations of many creative artists, working together in different mediums to tell the stories of the world’s oldest living culture. It is an innovative project that breathes new life into each work, honouring the artistic excellence of the artists involved in creating these three-dimensional works of cultural expression.



'Catching Breath’, Singapore, April 2018

'Catching Breath' is the title of a unique tapestry, which resides in the Australian High Commission in Singapore, based on an original artwork by Brook Andrew. Cheetham’s new work of the same name premiered at the Esplanade, Theatres on the Bay, Singapore in April 2018.

Featuring the veiled image of an unnamed Aboriginal Man from the turn of the 19th century the original tapestry invites us to challenge the notion of the undifferentiated other. Featuring artists from Short Black Opera, the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Cheetham’s new work gave voice to the unnamed Aboriginal Man, bringing him to life.

This concert featured the first of Melbourne couturier Linda Britten’s commissioned gowns, inspired by the tapestries.

Click here to watch the video of Catching Breath.



'Article 27’, New Delhi, March 2019

This tapestry, based on an original artwork by Nanyuma Napangati, hangs in the foyer of the new Australian Chancellery in New Dehli.

‘Article 27’ refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was translated into Nanyuma Napangati’s first language in 2015 by Dr. Sarah Holcombe, a researcher at The Australian National University (ANU). Article 27 states that “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.' This 

‘Article 27’ premiered in Mumbai and Dehli in March, 2019, and featured SBO artists, Rubiks Collective and special guest artist Pandit Ashis Sengupta on tabla. ATW Director Antonia Syme joined SBO in New Delhi and Mubai to speak about the tapestry.



'My Mother's Country’, Tokyo, April 2019

Short Black Opera developed new work in collaboration with the Melbourne based contemporary chamber music ensemble Plexus Collective in response to the 'Lumpu Lumpu country' tapestry, which currently hangs at the Australian High Commission in Tokyo. The tapestry was designed by Daisy Andrews and hand-woven at the Australian Tapestry Workshop by Louise King and Irja West in 2004. The work premiered at a private event at the Australian Embassy, Toyko.