Yurrwi in Europe – Basel, Genéva, Freiburg and Paris

In early September 2018 Milingimbi artists Helen Ganalmirriwuy and Ruth Nalmakarra will travel to Europe at the invitation of the Museum der Kulturen, Basel. In Europe the artists will work with museum staff, exhibit their artwork and deliver public workshops and presentations. Ganalmirriwuy and Nalmakarra will be accompanied by Milingimbi Art and Culture coordinator, Rosita Holmes and anthropologist, Louise Hamby.

The invitation to travel to the Museum came as a result of the Makaratta held in Yurrwi (Milingimbi) in 2016. During this event representatives from national and international collecting institutions were invited to Yurrwi to recognise collecting processes from the past and to develop respectful ways of working together in the present.  

The majority of Ganalmirriwuy and Nalmakarra’s time in Europe will be spent at the Museum der Kulturen. The Museum der Kulturen holds over 200 artworks and objects collected from Yurrwi in the 1920’s to 1960’s . Ganalmirriwuy and Nalmakarra will work with museum staff to build on the knowledge of their Ngapipi (mothers brother) Dr Joe Gumbula. Dr Gumbula worked with the Yurrwi collection at the Museum der Kulturen in 2007 and is renowned for his contribution of deep knowledge to collections held by many Australian and international institutions.

Dr Gumbula and others have set the path for artists and knowledgeable elders to contribute valuable and otherwise unknown information to the vast museum collections containing works from Yurrwi. Due to Yurrwi’s history as the location of the first mission in East Arnhem Land and thus one of the major collecting sites of Aboriginal Australian artworks and objects during the 20th Century it is imperative to our future understanding that Yurrwi artists and knowledgeable elders of today are engaged and supported to share their deep knowledge attached to these objects and artworks. Currently, knowledge related to works held in museum collections is recorded as part of the everyday Djäma (work) at the art centre as well as off-site at the invitation of partner organisations by Milingimbi Art and Culture staff and artists. 

Culture is not only recorded in Yurrwi but is practiced everyday through rituals, ceremonies and art making. Ganalmirriwuy and Nalmakarra will reflect on their fibre practice as part of a continuum between past and present during a public workshop at the Museum on Saturday the 8th of September. The workshop will be opened with the viewing of a short documentary, narrated by Ganalmirriwuy and with Manikay (song) by Wilson Manydjarri. This film shares the processes of harvesting, dying and weaving as well as provides an insight into weaving in the Yolngu realm of songline, totem and sacred object.  

During this workshop the artist’s will share their skills as master fibre workers as well as their knowledge of natural fibres and dyes. Participants will have the opportunity to work with Gunga (pandanus) and Balgurr (kurrajong) fibres that have been harvested, prepared and dyed by the artists. The workshop will also include a presentation by Dr Beatrice Voirol about specific fibre pieces held in the Museum der Kulturen’s collection.

In Genéva, at the Ethnographic Museum de Genéva, Ganalmirriwuy and Nalmakarra will meet with museum staff to discuss the significance of fibre in the life of Yolngu in the past and present. Here they will also work with the museum’s collection.   

The artists recent collaborations with designers at Koskela designs and Manapan Furniture will be the topic of discussion during a presentation to students at the University of Applied Science, Basel.

On the 13th of September the artists will attend the preview of a combined exhibition with Maningrida Arts at ArtKelch, Freiburg, Germany. The distinctive Mul Mindirr (black twined basket) of Helen Ganalmirriwuy and her sister Margaret Rarru will be featured.

Ganalmirriwuy and Nalmakarra’s process of dyeing and making artworks from plant fibres, roots and leaves harvested by hand from Yurrwi and the surrounding Crocodile Islands will be explored and compared with natural dye processes of Paris based artisan Aurélia Wolff. During this event pâtissier chef Jennifer Hart-Smith of Tookies, Gambetta will also share her passion for working with natural ingredients. Participants will have an opportunity to try foods prepared by Jennifer using native Australian ingredients.  

Ganalmirriwuy and Nalmakarra look forward visiting the artworks and objects created be their ancestors and adding their knowledge to the museums records as well as returning home with photos to add to their communities digital collection to be shared with their family in Yurrwi. It will also be a great honour to make connections and work with museum staff, designers, artists, gallerists and general public in Basel, Genéva, Freiburg and Paris.  

For more information regarding specific events please refer to below links

Public workshop and presentation @ the Museum der Kulturen, Basel
Workshop für Erwachsene  – FLECHT-SCHMUCK AUS AUSTRALIEN – 8. September 2018, 11.00 – 16.00

Public collaborative workshop @ WHOLE studio, Paris
Information and tickets available here
14th September 2018, 10.00 – 14.00
WHOLE, Paris
Aurèlia Wolff @ WHOLE, Paris
Jennifer Hart-Smith @Tookies, Gambetta