• Deborah Wurrkidj with her artwork Marebu. (Supplied: Caitlin Mills)Source: Supplied: Caitlin Mills
Bábbarra Women's Centre in Maningrida realises long-time dream of artists in releasing bed linen range in partnership with lifestyle brand Kip&Co.
Keira Jenkins

20 Sep 2020 - 12:31 AM  UPDATED 21 Sep 2020 - 10:26 AM

In one of Australia's most remote textile-producing art centres, a group of women have been excitedly awaiting the arrival of a new homewares collection, poring over a catalogue of bedding linen, tableware, and bags.

The women are all artists from Bábbarra Women's Centre in Maningrida, Arnhem Land, and after spending two years working on a collaboration with clothing and homewares brand Kip & Co, the catalogue is their first taste of a dream coming to fruition.

While the artists haven't yet seen the final products in person, they say they're already proud of what's been produced.

The first local manager for the centre, Jessica Phillips, said the artists have long wanted to have their designs featured on a bed linen range and collaborating with a female-owned business seemed the perfect fit.

"We haven't seen the finished products yet, but we've seen samples," she told NITV News.

"But we're all proud and happy to see these things. This has been two years in the planning, there's been lots of back and forth, lots of talking to make sure we get this absolutely right."

The artists are Deborah Wurrkidj, Elizabeth Wullunmingu, Helen Lanyinwanga, Janet Marawarr, Jennifer Wurrkidj, Margot Gurawiliwili and Raylene Bonson.

The artists all produce work at the Bábbarra Women's Centre, an enterprise by Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the Aboriginal people of Maningrida and the 32 outstations in surrounding areas.

Janet Marawarr's design, Kunkurra, depicts the spiralling wind or mini-cyclones that are common in the wet season in Arnhem Land, and she said she feels good that people all over the country will see this design.

"We're sharing our stories with people and with the country," she said.

"We are telling our stories for the young people and keeping our culture alive."

Kuninjku artist Deborah Wurrkidj's Manwak design depicts the Manwak flower, which grows on her Country in central Arnhem Land.

She said although she was painting in Maningrida, she was dreaming of home as she worked.

"It's a flower with green petals and red in the middle, and it's a bush food that we pick when we're walking or going hunting," she said.


Ms Wurrkidj's second design in the collection, Marebu, depicts woven pandanus mats, which she said she often weaves.

During the collaboration, the artists worked with Kip&Co to design every aspect of the range, alongside the help of the Copyright Agency, to ensure artists' intellectual property rights were protected.

Ms Phillips said the most important thing was making sure the collaboration was right, not just in terms of the designs, but in line with cultural protocol too.

"They have their non-Indigenous way and we have our cultural protocol," she said.

"Kip&Co were very patient in all the back and forth. Our ladies are very busy - they had ceremony and other commitments too.

"It took months just to approve colours but Kip&Co saw how important it was to make sure everything was culturally appropriate and very respectful."

Now, Ms Phillips said the centre is planning a celebration for when the products arrive, so the artists can show off their works.

"We'll have a barbecue when the products get here because we want to celebrate this achievement," she said.

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