A few weekends ago I had a wonderful experience that I’ve been longing to share with you. In the photo above, there is a little treasure that I made by hand using a technique that has been passed down over thousands and thousands of years. Can you guess what it is?
This basket, this tiny basket the colour of sunshine.
I made it by weaving pandanus collected from the outback, soaked and hand dyed with colour made from bush roots. With many thanks to my dear friend Kylie who invited me to attend the weaving workshop with her mum, sister Tiff and friend Jennifer, and to the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane who hosted the workshop taught by two beautiful Aboriginal women named Lucy and Shirley from the gapuwiyak community in East Arnem Land, I spent 2 hours sitting among 30 women, learning the technique and absorbing the sacred energy. It was such a privilege to be in Lucy and Shirley’s company, I could feel how special it was to be in their presence, and to be learning the ancient weaving technique that was passed down to them by the women in their families over millennia. During the workshop, Lucy and Shirley guided each of us as we began our coiling mat, it took two hours to get this far…
…so how many hours does it take them to create an entire basket? Not to mention the walking to and gathering of materials which are collected along the shoreline of crocodile waters in remote parts of the outback, land that I will most likely never know, but these women know as their backyard. They also search and collect roots to create the dyes to colour the pandanas, all of which take hours of itself. Even though I’ve always had appreciation for Aboriginal art and wares, I didn’t know the depth of my appreciation until I sat with them and tried my own hands at it. When I came home to Sydney, I was eager to finish my piece, turning it into a little wonky basket that fits snuggled in my two hands.
Thank you Lucy and Shirley for travelling to us to share your knowledge, and to all Aboriginal women past and present and future, who will continue to weave and teach us how to connect with the earth. Thank you to Shannon for organising the trip and all that goes with it.