Date of this Version
Published in The Social Fabric: Deep Local to Pan Global; Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 16th Biennial Symposium. Presented at Vancouver, BC, Canada; September 19 – 23, 2018. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
Aboriginal women artists who live on the island of Milingimbi in eastern Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory of Australia have had a long engagement with people outside of the community. This began with the arrival of Macassan traders over 400 years ago who came primarily in search of trepang. They brought new things and ideas with them; some became absorbed into the lifestyle of the local people. One item in particular is most relevant to the Deep Local and those operating outside of it. The praus that brought the Macassans to Arnhem Land were powered by sails. The Arnhem Land people quickly could see the advantage of having sails for their canoes. They started making sails which they called garrurru from pandanus. The techniques and materials they employed were entrenched into their way of life. The sail added to their capacity to move across the ocean. The concept of making large flat items has been transferred recently to making shelters. In 2017 the women from Milingimbi Art and Culture and Mavis Ganambarr, Margaret Dhorrpuy, and Judy Manany Gurruwiwi from Elcho Island came together to begin a collaboration on a large scale fiber project for Koskela Designs. These pods, or shelters, are made from frames designed by Koskela and interiors twined and coiled by the artists. The scale is very much like the ones of the sails. This project has been designed to have long term creative and economic benefits for the artists and meet the demand for a new and innovative product from the commercial Australian design world. Koskela is a Syndey-based furniture design company which believes that design can effect social change. They are committed to working with indigenous artists on projects which have a local base that are sustainable and meaningful.