Women with clever hands from three parts of Australia – Arnhem Land, Wagga Wagga in NSW and Victoria – shared their passion and skill in basket-weaving today, to mark the opening of the travelling exhibition Women With Clever Hands: Gapuwiyak Miyalkurruwurr Gong Djambatjmala.This exhibition features vivid and intricate fibrework by women artists of Gapuwiyak in Arnhem Land.
Three of the artists – Lucy Malirrimurruwuy Wanapuyngu, Kathy Nyinyipuwa Guyula and Anna Ramatha Malibirr – are at Melbourne Museum for the exhibition opening and to demonstrate their craft. Curator Dr Louise Hamby worked on this exhibition with the artists and the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery. She explained that fibrework of this region had its own characteristic style and the purpose of the exhibition was to share this with other communities in Australia.
Following the launch of the exhibition on Friday morning, the three groups of women exchanged stories about their work, techniques and materials and examined baskets and other fibre objects in the MV collections.
Curator Antoinette Smith showing fibrework collection objects to the visitors.
Source: Museum Victoria
The Gapuwiyak artists use the natural fibres from plants that that grow in their area, such as pandanus, which is a real challenge to collect because of its rows of sharp spines and its habit of growing in wet, buffalo-riddled country! The outer layers of pandanus are stripped away and the core is dyed with local materials.
The Women of Wagga Weaving (WOWW) group brought in an array of works produced by Wiradjuri Elders and other women. Melanie Evans spoke about how much the women love the opportunity to meet regularly, share their work and learn side by side. They have met with the Gapuwiyak artists several times through the collaboration between the Gapuwiyak Cultural Centre and the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery and been deeply inspired by it. A small group of Wiradjeri women with Melanie Evans and Linda Elliott from the Wagga gallery also travelled to Gapuwiyak in 2010.
Women from WOWW talking about their fibrework.
Source: Museum Victoria
Three Victorian artists also spoke about their work: Vicki Couzens, Bronwyn Razem and Marilyne Nicholls are renowned fibre artists with works in major private and public collections. They told stories about learning their art and how it is sacred to them, and the importance of sharing the knowledge and giving guidance and instruction about these skills to younger people.
This glimpse into culture and skill of basket-making made me aware that these women are not just craftspeople and artists, but botanists, ecologists and geologists. Each variety of fibre comes from a particular plant, which is understood in terms of its country. Finding fibre means understanding soil types and the environment the plant requires to grow, as well as the biology and anatomy of the plant to know when and which parts to harvest. The preparation – stripping, drying, dyeing – is yet another level of knowledge.
The Gapuwiyak artists will hold a weaving demonstration at Bunjilaka at Melbourne Museum today. Come along and see how it is done!
Women With Clever Hands is on show at Bunjilaka until 28 August 2011.
Women With Clever Hands at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery