Yesterday morning we took the weavers to the airport for an early morning flight to begin their long journey back to Mapuru. When they first arrived last Tuesday, a week seemed like a significant time for them to be here – but with the whirlwind of activities and workshop days this flew by in the blink of an eye.
Thankyou so much to everyone who helped FoM and the Arnhem Weavers make this trip happen. We couldn’t have done it alone and we certainly hope it it has touched others as it has us. Check back for some workshop photos to be posted in the coming week.
Wow. We made it. Final workshop day and we have a circle of weavers with significant progress under the belt from the first two days weaving.
We started off in the cool (which we relished knowing the heat that was to come) and prepared ourselves for a solid days work. At morning tea time, we took a break from weaving to hear Roslyn teach about collecting and stripping the pandanus and collecting the natural colour to dye the pandanus. It is a long process and important to know the lengthy preparation that had gone into the material that was being woven.
In the afternoon, finishing began for those who were ready to complete their baskets. A key task as part of this is rolling the string for the basket handle. This also is a long process of preparation, which involves softening the trunk of a kurrajong through several step process so that you can roll and spin it on your leg into string.
We finished the final workshop day in celebration with those who had helped make the trip possible. The students showed off the baskets that had been made, and then stories and song about Mapuru were shared, both in English and in the weavers first Yolngu language.
There were quite a few misty eyes at the end of the day, in awe of what we had shared and how much you can grow and learn in a few short days. Importantly, we had learned by doing, which is the Yolngu way.
Today started with so much chatter and excitement as the workshop students arrived and compared how the baskets had grown overnight with the homework they’d been given by the weavers.
A wonderful start to our second day with the most picture perfect weather to be weaving under the shady gumtrees, much laughter and sharing of more stories round the weaving circle, campfire crackling in the background – it almost felt like we could have been at Mapuru.
Apart from progressing the baskets, today the weavers taught how to dye the pandanus – how to make the colour. This is a really important part of the process of weaving, all the material used in the demonstration was collected from local plants at Mapuru and brought down to show how it is done over the campfire.
After lunch during a wander to see the Merri Creek, the weavers discovered some grasses growing that can also be found up at Mapuru and are used for weaving, needless to say there was MUCH excitement and there are now a few basket being made in the workshop with a combination of materials that come from both Mapuru and Melbourne. Will be great to see how these ones turn out.
Today we had a fabulous first day of the three day workshop, with the master and apprentice weavers taking a class of 15 keen new students. The day was filled with lots of weaving, talking, cups of tea, learning some simple Yolŋu words and getting to know one another.
Enthusiasm was high on all fronts and we (FoM) were terribly excited to finally have made it to this key moment that we have worked towards with the weavers for over a year. We’re really looking forward to seeing the baskets progress tomorrow!
After three separate flights and a very long day travelling, the weavers arrived in Melbourne at 12pm on Tuesday night. Such tired but happy eyes as we greeted them in the early hours of the morning.
For their first day we took them to the Melbourne Museum to Bunjilaka to see the wonderful new First People’s exhibition and also see the amazing wall of baskets form all over Australia. There was a lot of discussion from the women about the differences and similarities between people of Victoria and Yolŋu people. Canoe making, message sticks, ceremony, digging sticks and weaving.
We were also taken back of house into the Museum’s archive of indigenous artefacts from all over Australia, particularly looking at the objects from Arnhem Land. It was amazing to hear the women telling stories about the pieces that they knew, what they were used for and who might have made them.
Special thanks to everyone at the Museum for their time, it was truly an amazing afternoon.