Saturday, December 15, 2012

ArtCloth from the Women of Ernabella
Australian Aboriginal ArtCloth

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Ernabella is basically an Aboriginal community, which was established as a Presbyterian mission in 1938.

Ernabella was the first Aboriginal community to produce batik textiles. The Ernabella (“Anangu” women) artists perfected the complexities of dye-resist processes in order to adopt it into their artistic voice.

The Ernabella craft room was built in 1948 with the intention of providing an income for the Anangu women in terms of cash, food and clothing [1]. The craft room also served as a vehicle for providing training and/or transferring the craft skills of the women elders to a new and younger initiated cohort. It also served as the location where the elders could exercise quality control over the craft output.

Ernabella’s Location. Pukatja (Ernabella) is on the banks of the Ernabella Creek in South Australia, a locality that is about 1140 km North-West of Adelaide.

At the outset, the aboriginal women translated their “sand” drawings onto new art media. Their walka (i.e. intentional art marks) surfaced but did so without compromising their customary rituals in the way their stories (mythologies) were transmitted and/or bestowed.

In 1971 Leo Brereton, a young American who learnt the Batik technique in Indonesia, taught the women of Ernabella the technique. He only taught it for a month, since his aboriginal students quickly accelerated to a very sophisticated level, and easily incorporated and adapted the technique into their art practice.

Ernabella’s Art Center.

Equipped with appropriate waxes, dyes and chantings (i.e. their hypocritically and sanctimoniously chatter about their mythologies) they mixed their own dyes and handled the batik technique with mastery, thereby branching their walka onto the long cloth (i.e. raiki wara).

Ernabella ArtCloth (Raika wara = long cloth)
Ernabella women artists quickly asserted their Batik art markings, which illustrated a rich command of color, line and motif so distinct from the Batik artists of Indonesia, where the latter incorporated preordained sets of “patterns or figurative motifs” [1]. While no two Ernabella long cloths are artistic twins, nevertheless as they stem from a single spiritual consciousness, their motifs “…dance longitudinally along the surface, parallel to the selvedge, while linear borders flow out to the edges over a ground of dots”[1], thereby yielding to each a conscious collective.

The ArtCloth works of Tjariya (Nungalka) Stanley and Tjunkaya Tapaya (Ernabella Artists) have already been presented on this blog site, as both were included in the international Exhibition - ArtCloth: Engaging New Visions – see Stanley & Tapaya .

Their work below has been collected by the National Gallery of Victoria (Australia). The National Gallery of Victoria has the largest collection of Aboriginal ArtCloth in Australia[1].

Below are small taste of the Batik ArtCloths from the women artists of Ernabella.

Imiyari (Yilpi) Adamson – Raiki wara (1998).
Technique: Batik on silk.
Size: 115 cm (width) x 233 cm (length).
Courtesy of reference[1].

Nyukana Baker – Raiki wara (1989).
Technique: Batik on silk.
Size: 117 cm (width) x 328 cm (length).
Courtesy of reference[1].

Alison (Milyika) Carroll – Raiki wara (1994).
Technique: Batik on silk.
Size: 117.5 cm (width) x 345.7 cm (length).
Courtesy of reference[1].

Margaret Dagg – Raiki wara (1995).
Technique: Batik on silk satin.
Size: 111.5 cm (width) x 287 cm (length).
Courtesy of reference[1].

Atipalku Intjalki – Raiki wara (1993).
Technique: Batik on silk.
Size: 112 cm (width) x 290 cm (length).
Courtesy of reference[1].

Unurupa Kulyuru – Raiki wara (1995).
Technique: Batik on silk satin.
Size: 113 cm (width) x 288 cm (length).
Courtesy of reference[1].

Tjariya (Nungalka) Stanely – Raiki wara (1989).
Technique: Batik on silk.
Size: 90 cm (width) x 278 cm (length).
Courtesy of reference[1].

Tjunkaya Tapaya – Raiki wara (1995).
Technique: Batik on silk.
Size: 117.5 cm (width) x 295.5 cm (length).
Courtesy of reference[1].

[1] J. Ryan et al., Across The Desert – Aboriginal Batik from Central Australia, Council of Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2008).


Flora Fascinata said...

So thrilled to see this post! am currently engaging the chalkface with an increase in using Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives across secondary curriculum. Such beauty, I only just heard of Ernabella this year. Exciting knowledge filled times ahead with free NITV viewing, too. Hopefully more awareness and appreciation will mprove outcomes. :)

Flora Fascinata said...

Meant to ask, too, if it is suitable to reference your work and project your post with my teaching. Many thanks, I appreciate the work you share with us.

Art Quill Studio said...

Thanks for your kind comments and encouragement Flora. Whenever I publish a new post I hope that it will be meaningful to someone and of course, I encourage anyone to use the content and concepts on my blog spot for their own purposes. In particular, I am pleased that teachers and artists have told me that they are sharing and incorporating many of parts of my posts in their teaching and art practice. A lot of the images on this blog spot are not my own and so I would be careful not to infringe copyright and to acknowledge who those images belong to - as teachers always do.

I am so thrilled that you are getting something from these posts!