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Arnhemweavers Workshop Information

These workshops are offered to women interested in Yolŋu culture where the focus is textiles. The knowledge and skills the participants will be shown by the workshop leaders has been passed down for thousands of years, “it is, as it always has been”. Participants will learn how to collect barks, pandanus and other plants. They will then be shown how to collect and prepare the fibres for dyeing before weaving or spinning.

It is assumed that workshop participants are motivated to engage with, and learn about Yolŋu society and therefore will be keen to learn the traditional skills offered by these women. English is not the first language for these women, but as skilled linguists, speak as many as twenty Yolŋu languages.

In addition there will be opportunities for those interested participants to take part in hunting expeditions, including collecting mud crabs, a variety of shellfish, fish and other game and vegetable staples that Mäpuru residents regularly hunt and collect.

Workshop leaders: Two elderly women who have lived on their ancestral homeland all their lives, daily they spin and weave articles that they need for themselves, their relatives, for ceremonies and for sale. These sisters have remarkable skill, this is shown by the extent to which they have traveled throughout Australia teaching their skills through workshops at galleries and museums.

These women are expert at utilising a variety of seasonally available materials for their weaving. They use pandanus leaves, roots, and bark for spinning and weaving, as well as a wide selection of roots, leaves and fruits to dye the fibres before spinning and weaving.

These women see this extremely successful project succeeds creating meaningful employment as well as financial independence for themselves and their families, they are striving to create a welfare-free future for their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They can only do this on their ancestral estates or home-land.

Location: The workshops are held at Mäpuru. Mäpuru is a home-land situated on the mainland 10 minutes flight south of Elcho Island, North East Arnhem Land. The residents are all Yolŋu and connected ancestrally to the area. Mäpuru has a permanent population of about 100.

Accommodation: The Mäpuru residents will provide a traditional bark shelter for shade. It is recommended participants bring their own mosquito domes or small tents.

Phones: There are two phones in Mäpuru, one is a public phone, that has a ring up number, ie people can ring directly through to the pay phone number. There is a second phone at the local school. It is a good idea to bring a phone-away card.

Ablutions: There is access to a clean ‘long-drop’ toilets, and shower and laundry basin with usually running water.

Climate: Mäpuru is in the tropics, where the day time temperature is around 30˚C, and a night time temperature of about 24˚C. Rain doesn’t usually fall between May and November but night time temperatures can fall to 18˚ in June.

What to take: food (be prepared to cook over a fire), eating utensils, mosquito net or dome (although there are very few mosquitos, camera, note book, .., .., ..,

Food: Food is not provided. A very basic co-op is managed by local families. At the co-op canned goods can be purchased using a debit or eftpos card .
No fresh fruit or vegetables are available from the co-op. It is suggested that participants bring non-perishable food such as muesli, noodles, canned fish, vegetables and fruit such as carrots, sweet potato, oranges, etc.

Travel: It is recommended that participants travel by 4WD to Mäpuru because it is the cheapest transport method and enables participants to take part in excursions from Mäpuru for hunting and gathering, as well as traveling through some beautiful country on the way.

Travel to Mäpuru is usually undertaken by 4WD vehicle. Mäpuru is a minimum 12 hours drive from Darwin. These are some of the options for road travel;
Option 1. If a vehicle needs to be hired. It is important participants agree before arrival in Darwin to share vehicle hire and fuel costs. If there are eight participants then hire vehicle will be about $200 and fuel about $70 for the week (a return trip in a Toyota troop carrier uses about 450L).
Option 2. If participants have their own 4WD. Other participants agree before arrival in Darwin to contribute to vehicle running and fuel costs. If there are eight participants then hire vehicle will be about $200, and fuel about $70 for the week.

Fly to Mäpuru: It is possible to fly to Mäpuru, by charter plane from Darwin the cost is approximately $1,500 one-way for four to five people. By Regular passenger Transport to Elcho Island then charter to Mäpuru the cost is approximately $800 per person one way. Travel to Mäpuru by plane is not recommended, as participants will have no transport while at Mäpuru however it may be an option for individuals who have limited time.

Insurance: The women at Mäpuru are eager that their workshops continue to grow, providing meaningful engagement with Balanda (non-Indigenous people) and income for their families. In an effort to reduce complications and keep the project under their control, the women have no insurance. They do not see that is necessary as they are undertake to only;
• provide workshop tuition
• act as guides when procuring materials, including leaves, bark, roots, etc.

Participation in all activities is encouraged, but if participants decide to involve themselves in weaving activities such as pulling down pandanus leaves, digging dyes, they do so at their own risk.

Permits: Before any travel is undertaken through Arnhemland, ( ie, to Mäpuru), all participants must have a permit. These will be organised for participants through the Northern Land Council.

Intellectual Property: Participants are authorised to make records of workshop activities solely for their own personal use. No publication is authorised unless written permission is granted by Linda Marathuwarr. Participants may be asked to sign an agreement to this affect. While workshop participants are requested not to take cameras, a digital camera will be available at each workshop for all participants to use, images taken shared with all participants.

Workshop Costs: The cost is $150 per day, per person to attend workshops.

Workshop numbers: A minimum number of 8 participants are necessary for the workshops to be offered.

Securing a place in a workshop: In order to join a workshop it is recommended prospective participants contact the two organisations supporting the Arnhem Weavers:
CERES Global and/or Nature Philosophy.

Contact: If you have other queries please contact John Greatorex through his email: john.greatorex@cdu.edu.au

Post Script: If participants are interested, John may be available and willing to provide a half-day program introducing participants to the language and culture of east Arnhem Land.
See: yolngustudies

Last updated Nov 2015

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