The daily routine for all the weavers is set by the rhythm of harvesting, preparing, dying and weaving bush fibres. Research each of these processes. Compare this rhythm to how Ngarrindjeri artist Yvonne Koolmatrie collects and prepares the sedge she uses for her woven works. Consider the environment where these artists live and make their work.

Select one work of art made by each of the artists. Use a view finder to isolate a section of each of the baskets and draw in detail what you see. Compare your drawings – what do you notice about the differences in style or technique used by the different artists?

Using string, newspaper, recycled paper, calico or natural fibres, make a detailed wearable work of art that responds to the place where you live in. Consider using a limited colour palette as the artists have in their baskets.

The artists use materials found in their environment to create their baskets. Find materials in your environment that could be used for weaving, knotting and coiling. These might be natural materials found outside, but they could also be materials destined for landfill such as old T-shirts that could be cut into strips or plastic bags and packaging. Make a bag, basket or bowl using this material.

Extension

You could turn this activity into a science lesson. As a class, hypothesise, experiment and then test which bag can hold the most weight. Discuss the materials and techniques used to make the strongest and weakest bags.

Compare

Look below at a variety of baskets or bags made by other artists. What do you notice that is similar and different about them? Consider their shape, material and where they were made. Research what these bags are used for. Which bags do you think would be the most functional, durable or sustainable to make? Rank the bags from most to least functional, providing reasons why. Is your decision based on the size, shape, technique or materials? If you were able to touch them, what would each one feel like?

Tip

Look at the works by Theresa Munkara, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Mary Marabamba, Julie Djulibing Malibirr, Rosie Wudingurrkku, Lorraine Connelly-Northey, Debra Wurrkidj, Shirley Minyingarla, Jennifer Mye Jr and Vicki West.

Experiment, Invent & Make

To colour her baskets, Rarru first used the black dye made from local plants. Experiment with dying paper and fabric using a variety of natural dyes made from organic materials such as leaves, plants (including some vegetables – skin and roots), spices, coffee and tea. Perhaps you will invent a new colour! Use your fabric or paper to make a vessel or bag.

Tip

Place the fabric over an object (bowl, balloon, drink bottle etc) to provide support for the fabric in casting its form. Add PVA glue to the fabric to make it firm as it dries.

Mandy Batjula Gaykamungu, Gupapuyŋu-Gaykamungu people, Northern Territory, born 1980, Gove, Northern Territory, Djirri-didi miṉḏirr (Garrawurra conical basket), Bidiyunawuy miṉḏirr (painted conical basket) and Djirri-didi miṉḏirr (Garrawurra conical basket), 2020, Yurrwi (Milingimbi), Northern Territory, pandanus, earth pigments, 28.5 x 12.5 cm (diam), 25.0 x 13.0 cm (diam), 16.0 x 21.0 cm (diam.); © Mandy Batjula Gaykamungu/Milingimbi Art and Culture, photo: Grant Hancock.

About the artists

Learn more about the weavers working at Milingimbi

Helen Ganalmirriwuy Garrawurra, Liyagawumirr-Garrawurra people, Northern Territory, born 1955, Galiwin'ku (Elcho Island), Northern Territory, Boḏuk miṉḏirr (Gamalaŋga conical basket) and Boḏuk miṉḏirr (Gamalaŋga conical basket), 2020, Yurrwi (Milingimbi), Northern Territory, pandanus, natural dyes, 30.0 x 15.5 cm (diam.), 35.0 x 12.0 cm (diam); © Helen Ganalmirriwuy/Milingimbi Art and Culture, photo: Grant Hancock.

Getting Started

Bring the artists into the classroom

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