Anna Apinis: Latvian Migrant Weaver's Collection




The Apinis weaving collection contains over 150 objects made and used by Latvian migrants, Anna, Ervin and Anita Apinis, in the maintenance of traditional skills and cultural heritage associated with the artistic practice of weaving. It includes brought objects, examples of weaving, photographs and audio visual oral histories. It has been acquired by Museum Victoria in stages since the relationship with the family was first established as part of the immigration and artistic practice project in 1992.

Anna Apinis studied weaving in Leipaja in Latvia from 1930 to 1933, where she spent hours at the Leipaja Ethnographic Museum studying and copying traditional patterns into two notebooks which are now held in the Museum's collection. Anna continued collecting designs during her years in Memmingen, a Displaced Persons camp in Germany, following World War II. The notebooks provide an invaluable record of Latvian weaving patterns and techniques. They also showcase the extent of displacement across Latvia, containing designs from many different regions and providing an insight into some of the items Latvian refugees took with them during their flight from Latvia. During her time at Memmingen, Anna was asked to weave a traditional Zemgale district wedding costume; however there were no looms in the camp which were large enough to weave the complex costume. Anna's husband, Ervins, designed a multi-draw shaft loom and the bride's fiancé constructed it with the help of fellow refugees using wood scavenged from bombed-out ruins around the camp. This loom is held in Museum Victoria's collection. In 1950 Anna and Ervins migrated to Australia, with their son Erik and Anna's father, Ernest, brining the loom with them. Anna found it difficult to find suitable weaving materials in post-war Australia, so Ervins designed and built an unplying machine (held in Museum Victoria's collection), using cans, scrap metal and wood. He then used the machine to unply balls of wool to make weaving threads for Anna. Ervins was actively involved in helping Anna with her craft and designed other weaving devices used by her. Anna became one of the few suppliers of fabric for Latvian national costumes in Australia in the 1950s and 1960s, and exhibited her weaving nationally, at exhibitions and Latvian cultural festivals. Museum Victoria's collection contains several examples of this traditional weaving created by Anna, which highlight the importance of cultural maintenance by the Latvian community in Australia during this period. Anna kept her cultural traditions alive through her daughter, Anita, who she taught to weave. Anita incorporates both modern and traditional elements in her weaving, using traditional symbols primarily for aesthetic reasons, although she is aware of their meanings and origins. The pieces created by Anita in Museum Victoria's collection are illustrative of the creation of meaning-general crafts. These are often used by expatriate communities as a means of maintaining parts of their cultural heritage and traditional skills, although the objects created often becoming separated from their traditional meanings and uses, coming instead to signify a broader cultural or ethnic identity. Oral history audio and film interviews with Anna and Ervins (now deceased and Anita Apinis document Anna and Anita's artistic practices, Anna and Ervins migration experiences and the history of the post-war expatriate Latvian community in Australia.

Please direct access requests via Museum Victoria's Discovery Centre


1930-2010; Art; Artists; Crafts; Cultural Identity; Cultural Traditions; Displaced Persons; Immigration; Latvian Communities; Latvian Immigration; National Costumes; Post War Migration; Textiles; Traditional Costumes; Weaving; World War II, 1939-1945

Coverage Spatial

Germany; Victoria, Australia; Latvia; New South Wales, Australia

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