Kulila means to listen

Every face has a story, every story has a face: Kulila! is a group of embroidered sculptures made by nine women artists – Dulcie Raggett, Dulcie Sharpe, Marlene Rubuntja, Rhonda Sharpe, Rosabella Ryder, Roxanne Petrick, Roxanne Sharpe, Trudy Inkamala and Valerie Stafford, from the Yarrenyty Arltere Art Centre in Alice Springs. Using embroidery thread, wadding, twigs and dyed blankets, the artists at Yarrenyty Arltere manipulate techniques such as weaving, looping and knotting to create these unique figures.

Yarrenyty Arltere Artists, from the Northern Territory, comprises a dynamic community of artists who work across a range of soft sculptural forms. Originally established in 2000 as a response to the chronic social issues faced by the Larapinta Valley Town Camp community, the Yarrenyty Artlere Art Centre has played an integral role in rebuilding the community.

In the art centre the artists sew and prepare artworks while sharing their stories and culture. Every face has a story, every story has a face:Kulila! is a collaborative installation of life-size self-portraits describing this daily ritual. The distinct technique of dying recycled woollen blankets using local plants and scrap metal not only reflects an economy of means and resourcefulness but offers an insight into the daily lives of the artists. The vivid colours, bold stitching and combination of materials embrace ‘both ways’, of telling the stories of the artists lives. As the artists have said: See these faces, they all have stitches all over them all these stories, markings. That’s what we do, sew and talk and listen and try to make things get better. So, we thought we might make these faces so you can listen, to us, to our stories.

Getting started - Bring the artists into the classroom

Watch the Yarrenyty Arltere Every face has a story, every story has a face: Kulila! video with your students.

Making & Responding

Kulila means to listen. The nine women artists come together to share their ‘everything stories’, talking about good and bad experiences, as well as things they hope for.


Sit together with your class and share your stories or goals for the future. In this case it is about the conversations that help to build the process, rather than emphasis on the product.


While talking and listening to others create a self-portrait collage using soft materials such as recycled textiles, wool or thread. In our example below we have used felt and contact, ideal for early years and primary or a one lesson activity for secondary students.


You may like to extend this task by using needle and thread, adding buttons, beads or recycled materials destined for landfill, as facial features. Turn your 2D face into 3D by adding a back and stuffing and hang your student portraits in your classroom. See examples below for more ideas.

Step 1

Cut an oval shape for the base of your portrait. You may want to draw the shape first to make sure you use as much of the felt/fabric area as possible.

Step 2

Use scrap fabric to cut out your features. Create layers for your features by using different sized shapes and colours.

Step 3

Once you are happy with your design, remove the backing of the contact and carefully place the contact on top of your felt face. Seal your portrait by folding the contact to cover the back. Trim around your face leaving 1cm edge all the way around your face. No glue required. If you make a mistake or your features move, you can take it apart and try again.

Step 4

Display the portraits in your classroom.