Art beat

WEAV­ING STRONG FU­TURES How an an­cient tra­di­tion is be­ing used to help stop an en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter on the Ter­ri­tory’s re­mote beaches

Sunday Territorian - - FRONTIER ARTS & BOOKS - TAMARA HOWIE arts

ARTISTS on Groote Ey­landt have given the an­cient art of bas­ket weav­ing a con­tem­po­rary twist.

Artists from the Anindilyakwa Arts and Cul­tural Cen­tre have been us­ing tra­di­tional pan­danus weav­ing tech­niques with bush-dyed fab­rics and ghost nets.

The artists only started mak­ing bas­kets with this new style in Au­gust, and al­ready have an ex­hi­bi­tion at the Abo­rig­i­nal Bush Traders in Dar­win, show­cas­ing their pop­u­lar new works in Muku­lubena (Beau­ti­ful) Bas­kets.

Each year more than 640 tonnes of dis­carded fish­ing gear ends up in oceans, and due to wa­ter cur­rents, Groote Ey­landt of­ten bears the brunt and rangers are forced to pull huge nets from the wa­ter.

Cen­tre di­rec­tor Aly de Groot has been us­ing ghost nets in her art­work for many years and be­lieves there is beauty in see­ing the deadly waste help cul­ture get passed down in re­mote Aus­tralia.

“These bas­kets hold the story about these women sit­ting on an is­land in re­mote NT mak­ing them from junk re­moved from their beaches,” she said.

“They’re in this pris­tine re­mote place but be­cause of the na­ture of the tides the nets get caught in the cur­rents there, (and) the rangers find tur­tles and other ma­rine life trapped — dead and alive — in the nets.

“There’s some­thing mag­i­cal when you take this hor­ri­ble thing out of the ocean and use them cre­atively — it sud­denly be­comes de­sired.” By re­pur­pos­ing the nets, the artists help pre­vent them be­com­ing land­fill or toxic gases when burnt.

For some of the artists, the weav­ing skills have been passed from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion.

For oth­ers the last two months have been their first time.

Artist Maicey Lalara, 31, said she was taught by her el­ders and learned to in­cor­po­rate the de­struc­tive ghost nets from artist de Groot in 2011 af­ter a weav­ing work­shop.

“When I fin­ished school I learned from the old ladies who taught the young ones,” she said.

“I said ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and then I can teach the young ones back on Groote Ey­landt too’.

“I like work­ing with Aly be­cause I like to learn more about (us­ing ghost nets). “We share knowl­edge in the com­mu­nity.” The fab­rics used in the bas­kets are all dyed with nat­u­ral and re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als — in­clud­ing some rusty items from the dump.

“The Anindilyakwa artists, we go to to­gether and pick all the shells up and go right through the bush and col­lect the bush leaves and col­lect the roots,” Ms Lalara said.

“We make a fire near the beach and gather around and soak all the ma­te­ri­als in a bowl, then we mix the black dye that we col­lect from the bush and mix it with wa­ter and boil it up.

“We soak it in the vine­gar and we mix the vine­gar with the rusty tools af­ter we go down to the dump and we col­lect some nice pat­tern tools and rusty tools.

“We rinse it with cold wa­ter and dry it out in the sun and we use the ma­te­rial in the bas­kets.”

Ms Lalara said mak­ing bas­kets had be­come an ob­ses­sion.

“I love it a lot — I can’t stop mak­ing bas­kets,” she said.

Artist Annabell Amac­ula, 52, said it was great to be able to share the bas­kets with peo­ple in Dar­win and run work­shops while they were in town.

“We like to be here, it’s good we share our bas­kets and to show them how we make bas­kets, and peo­ple love learn­ing,” she said.

Muku­lubena also fea­tured the unique bush dyed tex­tiles and home­wares from Warnindilyakwa women artists at Abo­rig­i­nal Bush Traders un­til De­cem­ber 20.

Artists Maicey Lalara, Pa­trick Danger­field, Hen­drick­son Her­bert, Vera Lalara, Aly de Groot and Jay­drick­son Her­bert weav­ing bas­kets. Be­low: other ex­am­ples of their work

Pic­tures: ANINDILYAKWA ARTS

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