MV Blog


Visiting Arnhem Weavers

by Matthew Navaretti
Publish date
26 May 2014
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Matthew is our Outreach Program Manager.

Earlier this year, Melbourne Museum was honoured to host a visit of the Arnhem Weavers, a group of Yolŋu women from Mäpuru in northeast Arnhem Land. Their visit to Melbourne was facilitated by the Friends of Mäpuru who are a Melbourne based group who have visited the community of Mäpuru. By staying in the homes of members of Friends of Mäpuru, each were able to share their daily lives and activities.

The visit to Melbourne Museum started with the Arnhem Weavers being taken on a tour of First Peoples by Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre's Project Officer Kimberley Moulton. The women connected with the culture of Koorie Victoria, especially with the stories of Bunjil and Waa having similar creation stories of Eagle and Crow ancestors from their country. The women also saw objects in Many Nations that were from their country up north, that they were very proud to see.

The museum visit was a chance for the elders to explain and share culture with the younger generations of women, museum staff and Friends of Mäpuru, connecting two ways of learning, learning about the past and seeing and understanding ‘the other way.’ The experience, which was the first visit to a museum for most of the students, creates links with their school curriculum and will be shared back home in Mäpuru.

After the tour of First Peoples the group had a back of house collections tour of Arnhem Land objects and photographs with Senior Curator of Northern Australia, Lindy Allen. This was exceptionally moving for the group to be able to connect with their cultural material made by their ancestors. The group also had the opportunity to view photographs from the Donald Thomson Collection and this was particularly special as there were many family members in the images including one of Roslyn Malŋumba’s grandfather, Wuruwul. After the Arnhem Weavers day at Melbourne Museum, Roslyn was very moved by her experience and as a gift of thanks donated a basket made by her mother and fibre artist, Linda Marathuwarr.

Women with basket Roslyn Malŋumba presenting a basket made by her mother, fibre artist Linda Marathuwarr, to Meg in the Discovery Centre.
Image: Loredana Ducco
Source: Friends of Mäpuru

Together FoM and the Mäpuru community are planning to sustain these cultural exchanges into the future, to give the opportunity for others from Mäpuru to share time in the city, including connecting with Yolŋu cultural artifacts at the museum.

Visiting Gapuwiyak artists

by Kate C
Publish date
28 May 2011
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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 leads a store tour. 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 of Wagga Wagga Weaving 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

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.