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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: A group of elderly women who have lived on their ancestral homelands for most of their lives daily spin and weave articles that they need for themselves, their relatives, for ceremonies and for sale. These women and their daughters 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 as 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 homeland.

Location: The workshops are held at Mäpuru. Mäpuru is a homeland 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 shelter for shade. It is recommended participants bring their own mosquito domes or small tents.

Phones: There is one public phone at Mapuru that has a ring up number, ie people can ring directly through to the pay phone number. Mapuru does not have coverage to make mobile telephone calls.

Ablutions: There is access to a clean ‘long-drop’ toilets and cold water show at the school.

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. There is no regualr and reliable food outlet at Mapuru.
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: Drive to Mapuru: 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 about 900km from Darwin, taking a minimum of 12 hours driving time from Darwin.

Travel: Fly to Mäpuru: It is possible to fly to Mäpuru, by charter plane from Darwin the cost is approximately $3,000 one-way for four to five people. By Regular passenger Transport to Elcho Island then charter to Mäpuru the cost is approximately $1,200 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 $200 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.

Post Script: If participants are interested in learning about the languages and cultures of east Arnhem Land it is suggested you contact: yolngustudies

Last updated Dec 2023


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