The Djilpin galleries stock a wide selection of exciting sculptural fibre art. Our women weavers are famous for their traditional pandanus creations that are both decorative and practical, and often in vibrant naturally-dyed colours, such as fine fibre mats, baskets and dilly bags. They are becoming increasingly renowned however, for having transformed the fibre art tradition, and they are now producing more conceptual designs.
The Pandanus Project, a collaboration between women weavers from Beswick, Bulman and Katherine with fibre artist Adrienne Kneebone, has resulted in the women creating pieces that embed culture in contemporary sculptural forms.
The women create unique hand woven artefacts such as lamp shades, Mukuy spirit figures and quirky or dramatic creatures including fish, insects, crocodiles and other characters belonging to the Arnhem landscape. Weaver Vera Cameron’s Mukuy figures for example, tell the stories of her country, culture and spiritual beliefs. They belong in Yirritja country and at night you might hear them playing didjeridu. They can play with your mind and make you lose your way in otherwise familiar country.
Materials and Techniques
Pandanus fibres are harvested from the fronds of the Top End pandanus plant, mukarra in Rittharngu language. The fronds are bordered by thorny spikes, so deft hands are required to pull the young shoots from the centre of the plant at the top of the tree that can grow up to 10m tall. The fronds are then stripped and dried in preparation for dyeing. Dyes come mostly from local native plants and tree roots. Traditionally the fibre wasn’t dyed and was a pale straw colour. These days the dried strips are dyed in a pot over a camp fire, then dried and bunched together ready for weaving.
There are three main weaving techniques:
Coiling is used to make baskets, where a bundle of core material is coiled upwards and stitched into place using a needle and pandanus thread. Coiled baskets can be made so tightly that they can hold water, and in the past they were sometimes used for cooking.
Twining is a method of interweaving warp and weft. It was traditionally used to weave conical baskets and is now commonly used to create contemporary sculptures.
But-but string is bark from the local but-but tree that is rolled on the thigh until it resembles twine. The string has a variety of uses including string bags; string for ceremony; and binding objects, feather belts, armbands and head dresses.