COLLABORATION: Kunwinjku and Bundjalung women work side by side using plants to dye silk at Jambama Arts Centre in Casino.
COLLABORATION: Kunwinjku and Bundjalung women work side by side using plants to dye silk at Jambama Arts Centre in Casino. Susanna Freymark

Artists share ancient culture in cultural exchange

WOMEN from a small community in the top end travelled by plane, bus, then another plane and another bus to arrive at Jambama Arts Centre in Casino this week.

The Kunwinjku women artists from West Arnhem Land bought plants, roots and flowers with them to share their process of dyeing and weaving baskets and material.

The cultural exchange came about spontaneously when Casino Wake Up Time group co-ordinator Kylie Caldwell bumped into artist Jude White at a Bundjalung exhibition in Lismore.

For 24 years, Ms White has been visiting Injalak Arts in the Northern Territory, working with the women. Bundjalung and Kunwinjku women were keen on a cultural exchange.

It was a long trip for the Kunwinjku women and two children due to a heavy wet season up north. Arts Northern Rivers assisted with their transport costs.

Their small community of 1200, of which 90% are Aboriginal people, seemed a long way when they arrived in Casino.

Initially shy, the four women soon forgot about the media including a TV film crew and set about using plants and yellow tree roots to dye swathes of silk.

Bundjalung and Kunwinjku artists worked side by side sharing their ancient art and stories.

Everywhere the women went, they were curious about the environment, Ms Caldwell said.

"We use wetland reeds and buki bush and have pandanus on the coast," she said of plants used for dyeing and weaving.

"We have lomandra and bull rushes and we use native hibiscus."

Ms Caldwell and others in the Casino Wake Up Time group go on regular trips to collect plants.

"One of the challenges is we have to travel to get the reeds," she aid.

"They grow in swampy wetlands and we've had so much development it doesn't grow locally."

Ms Caldwell said the basket weaving done by the Bundjalung people was different to up north.

"Bundjalung baskets are unique, they are flat and rectangular," she said.

The women are running a workshop in Clunes before they return to their country.


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