Craftivism & Yarn-Bombing

Craftivism is a branch of graffiti used to raise awareness for social justice issues. Yarn-bombing is a form of radical craft work popularised by women and marginalized peoples as a form of peaceful protest.

By Macquarie University

Lucy Taylor, Khriselle Baterna, A/Prof Alyce McGovern, Dr Brian Ballsun-Stanton

Images have been collected by UNSW A/Prof Alyce McGovern as part of her research to be presented at a symposium at Macquarie University in June 2021.

Yarn bombed trees (2014)Macquarie University

A yarn-bombed tree

Activists use yarn-bombing to raise public awareness. This graffiti is craftivism: non-violent protest through yarn and needlework.  

Pro-bicycling banner (2015)Macquarie University

Knitting a pro-bike poster

Attaching needle-work, knitting and crochet, to public places subverts this traditional home art to communicate public messages.   

Craftivism doesn't always need a written message, sometimes themes and colours are enough.

Yarn bombed tree, 2012, From the collection of: Macquarie University
‘Hands of Harmony’ yarn bombed tree, 2016, From the collection of: Macquarie University
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On the left, the colours of the Australian Aboriginal flag promote Indigenous issues. On the right, the knitted hands remind passers by of historic aboriginal rock art.

‘Say No to Domestic Violence Knit Bomb’ - Figurine bunting (2019) by Robyn Caughlan; Tracie BertramMacquarie University

Women's work as knitted protest

Needleworks such as knitting & crochet have typically had an affiliation with domestic work - traditionally viewed women's work.   

With knitted bunting, activists communicate feminist empowerment and messages of solidarity.  

‘Say No to Domestic Violence Knit Bomb’ - Yarn-Bombed Street Trees (2019)Macquarie University

Unlike painted graffiti, cleaning up yarn is easy.

‘Say No to Domestic Violence Knit Bomb’ - Street lined yarn bombings (2019)Macquarie University

Activists use yarn to call attention

Colourful trees invite close inspection. Viewers then see the small cards for Zonta's Vision.

‘Say No to Domestic Violence Knit Bomb’ - yarn bombing as part of the Zonta Vision (2019)Macquarie University

Yarn-bombing was a part of Zonta's anti domestic violence campaign in Blacktown, New South Wales.

‘Say No to Domestic Violence Knit Bomb’ - 'Listen. Believe + Help.' (2019)Macquarie University

These accessible forms of protest draw attention to important issues and allow for creative ways of activism.  

‘Say No to Domestic Violence Knit Bomb’ - 4 figurines (2019)Macquarie University

Yarn as protest is popular and powerful. 

Alyce will be presenting her research at a symposium entitled ‘Lines of Resistance’ at Macquarie University in June 2021, which aims to explore the role of graphic arts in cutting through political inertia and visualising utopian alternatives.

Credits: Story

Images provided courtesy of:
Alyce McGovern

Story by:
Lucy Taylor
Khriselle Baterna

Production by:
Brian Ballsun-Stanton

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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