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