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DAAFF Yarns… with Anindilyakwa Arts

May 26, 2021

A Yarn With Anindilyakwa Arts

Today we’re visiting Groote Eylandt, off the coast of East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. The largest island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Groote Eylandt is home to Anindilyakwa Arts, a thriving Art Centre supporting Anindilyakwa artists from several communities, including Umbakumba, Angurugu and Milyakburra, to promote and sell their work. 

Words by Camilla Wagstaff

A revitalisation of traditional practices, met with contemporary textiles.

“Anindilyakwa Arts’ diverse programs focus on engagement with the local community and with Warnumamalya artists across the Archipelago,” says Arts Development Officer at Anindilyakwa Arts, Aly de Groot. “These programs work to foster a revitalisation of traditional practices for women artists – like pandanus weaving and string bag making – as well as carving and painting by the male artists.”

Aly notes that “Anindilyakwa women are increasingly gaining recognition for their contemporary bush dyed textiles and fashion lines. These include screen printed and digitally designed fabrics, seed and shell jewellery and weavings from pandanus and ghost net” – that is, the discarded fishing nets that wash up on the island’s shores. 

“I’m weaving a baby monster fish from the nets from our beach on Groote Eylandt,” explains Anindilyakwa artist and Umbakumba Art Centre Project Officer Maicie Lalara. “The net floats from overseas to our beaches. We are using the net to make fish and turtles and baskets …  The net travels for days and months, washing to our land. The Anindilyakwa rangers collect it, the ghost net and rubbish, and sort it out and give it to us art ladies.” Maicie’s giant fish woven from ghost net and marine debris is currently touring the Northern Territory in the Artback NT exhibition titled Groundswell.

“When we bush dye, the colours come from the old ways,” artist and Angurugu Art Centre Project Officer Annabell Amagula further explains. “We use that rusty stuff from Community, from the dump, to make the patterns. We use leaves too. We put that black colour in the dye pots to dye the fabrics.”

Above | Annabell Amagula, Anindilyakwa Arts, Photo credit Anna Reynolds.

Below | Annabell Amagula, Ghost Net and Fabric Bag, ghost net, recycled high vis mining shirts, 45x25x25cm, 2020. Photo courtesy of Anindilyakwa Arts.

Above | Alice Durilla, Old and New Ways Baskets Artwork Medium Bush dye, Ghost Net and Pandanus, 2020, 3 baskets different sizes, Photo courtesy of Anindilyakwa Arts.

Below | Alice Durilla harvesting pandanus for baskets, Photo Credit Anindilyakwa Arts.

Launching into fashion.

In 2018, Anindilyakwa Arts launched its first Bush Dye collection at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation (DAAFF)’s highly anticipated annual fashion event Country to Couture. Aly says that it was so well received that the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation presented some of the designs in their Jakarta Fashion Week runway that was sponsored by the Australian Embassy. 

“Through a series of workshops, artists have also been learning new skills from Darwin artist and designer Anna Reynolds, expanding the Anindilyakwa textile practices to include refashioning and recycling, as well as hand and machine sewing and digital design,” says Aly.  “This ongoing spirit of innovation shines through with Anindilyakwa Arts’ 2020 fashion collection, Yirradarringka-Langwa Akarwadiwada – Womens Work. The artists once again embrace sustainable practices with the repurposing of old work shirts from the island’s Manganese miners, making important social and environmental commentary.”

“The colours, the greys, and blacks, it’s holding the colour like the manganese and the fire,” says Maicie of the collection. “It’s natural, it’s bush dye, the leaves hold the black colour from the land.  The Sari Silk comes from the ladies in India, then I mix it up with the bush dye, to hold the stories from our land and our Ancestors spirit and vision.”

The collection was first launched in November 2020 at the Anindilyakwa Arts Gallery at Alyangula to a VIP audience including Minster Paech, who called the collection “world class”. The collection then featured in Country to Couture in Darwin in December 2020, and again in Melbourne in January 2021. It was deservedly nominated for DAAFF’s 2020 National Indigenous Fashion Award in the Environmental and Social Contribution Category.

Above | Maicie Lalara, 2021, Photo courtesy of Anindilyakwa Arts.

Above | Yirradarringka-Langwa Akarwadiwada, Womens Work, Ladies from Anindilyakwa Arts and Anna Reynolds, Country to Couture 2021 Screening in Melbourne, photo credit Timothy Hillier.

Below | Monster Fish Scarf, Maicie Lalara, Silk Sateen Digital Print Scarf, 2020, 110cm x 110cm, Photo courtesy of Anna Reynolds.

More to come in 2021.

2021 shows no signs of slowing down for Anindilyakwa Arts, with the artists busy with new works for the 2021 Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair as well as national and international presentations. Recognition at this level is understandably uplifting for Anindilyakwa Arts, solidifying the Art Centre’s important role in Community. As artist and Umbakumba Art Centre Project Officer Jeanelle Mamarika puts it, “seeing lots of people clapping and happy my design was good and shining and nice … It is important for me, helping each other, supporting each other. That is very important for me.”

Above | Yirradarringka-Langwa Akarwadiwada (full), Womens Work, Ladies from Anindilyakwa Arts and Anna Reynolds, Country to Couture 2020, photo credit George F Photography.


Next Time…

Thank you to Maicie Lalara, Jeanelle Mamarika, Aly de Groot and Annabell Amagula from Anindilyakwa Arts for sharing their knowledge as part of the ‘DAAFF Yarns’ series.

You can see more from Anindilyakwa Arts at anindilyakwaarts.com.au

Thanks for reading! Be sure to subscribe as the series continues, and if you haven’t already, catch up on our last posts below.


Banner Image | Ladies bush dyeing at the beach, 2021, Photo courtesy of Anindilyakwa Arts.