Deadly Threads on show at State Library

Footy jerseys and protests shirts make a statement in new showcase.

The rise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clothing designs is being showcased by the State Library of Queensland.

Deadly Threads: where did you get that shirt? explores the rise in popularity of clothing designed by Indigenous Queenslanders and its importance in social activism, cultural rituals and on the sporting field. 

More than 170 shirts and rare items will be on display including boots worn by Queensland rugby league legend Johnathan Thurston and T-shirts worn by land rights campaigner Eddie Koiki Mabo.

Deadly Threads at State Library of Queensland.

State Librarian and CEO Vicki McDonald said visitors may be surprised to learn such eclectic collection items were held at the State Library.

“They all help tell the story of Queensland in unique ways,” Ms McDonald said.

“Clothing has always been an important cultural signifier and we carefully preserve and make accessible key items for future generations.

Deadly Threads at State Library of Queensland.

“From contemporary, thought-provoking protest T-shirts to rare jerseys worn by First Nations athletes, there is something in this showcase for everyone.”

Queensland Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said Deadly Threads presented an opportunity to explore the symbolic nature of the clothing and spark important conversations around First Nations cultures and history.

“Many of these First Nations-designed products have marked key moments in our recent social history and it’s of great value to understand the ways they have inspired cultural pride in First Nations peoples in Queensland over the years,” Ms Enoch said.

Johnathan Thurston's boots at Deadly Threads.

Deadly Threads highlights include: 

  • Rare sports jerseys (rugby league, rugby union, Aussie rules, netball, basketball);
  • Shirts from the Mabo Family collection that celebrate the Mabo decision and Mabo Day; 
  • Memorial shirts designed for tombstone openings in the Torres Strait Islands;
  • T-shirts designed by artists Vernon Ah Kee, Richard Bell and Libby Harward; 
  • Deadly Choices health check shirts (Institute for Urban Indigenous Health);
  • Commemorative shirts such as the 75th anniversary of the Torres Strait Light Infantry.

Deadly Threads at State Library of Queensland.

Deadly Threads is at the State Library of Queensland, South Bank, in the kuril dhagun space on Level 1 from 27 March to 15 August. The showcase is open daily and entry is free.