Hunter Gatherer Research

The state of fibre at Gapuwiyak, Arnhem Land

Hunter Gatherer Research (2015), 1, (3), 359–378.

Abstract

Hand-crafted fibre objects from Arnhem Land are part of a long tradition of making objects primarily from plant materials for everyday and ceremonial use. Fibre objects made today in Gapuwiyak have been inspired from the world around them and from older classic items. The older items from the general region of eastern Arnhem Land are located in museums in Australia, America, Great Britain and Europe. Old and new items include baskets, string bags, mats, bodywear and sculptural works. The trajectory of making fibre objects into the contemporary arena has seen some changes with a primary function of the objects being to bring economic benefit to the artists who produce them. Can the making of fibre objects continue under the current conditions in communities? The sustainability of fibre practice itself is an issue that affects the women and can be seen in a number of ways, through the use of materials, as a physical practice and as a livelihood. I have selected artists from the community of Gapuwiyak or Lake Evella in eastern Arnhem Land in northern part of the Northern Territory of Australia for this discussion. For the women of Gapuwiyak the sustainability of all aspects of fibre objects is a desirable objective in order to maintain a meaningful cultural base of knowledge for the future.

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Author details

Hamby, Louise