Selling Yarns 2

Innovation for sustainability



Indigenous Textile Art Project: corporate collaborations with Babbarra Designs

Session: Art Centre stories: engagement with industry Saturday 7 March 2009 3:00 - 4:25pm

Bobbie Ruben

Printmaker, Department of Creative Arts and Humanities, Charles Darwin University


This paper will outline a project completed this year involving a collaboration between six artists from the Babbarra Women’s Centre in Maningrida, a printmaking lecturer from Charles Darwin University (CDU) and an interior design and architecture lecturer also from CDU and Publisher Textiles, a Sydney based screen printing studio.

Babbarra Designs produces fine indigenous textile art at Maningrida in central Arnhem Land operating out of the Babbarra Women’s Centre. Babbarra Designs employs up to 15 textile artists through the Community Development and Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme with "top up" wages provided from the sale of textiles. Whilst demand for Maningrida’s textiles has been growing steadily over the last 5 years, the current focus is to develop strategies that will help fullfill the centre’s goal of providing real jobs and salaries for the textile artists.

This innovative process began in 2006 when the interior design lecturer approached Babbarra Designs to create textiles for use as framed artworks for the Mantra Pandanas, a new high rise four to five star resort in Darwin. Given that this was an entirely new collaborative endeavor, this paper will discuss the process, comment on what worked well, lessons learned, and the artists perspective on the project. It will also focus on the potential opportunities that this project has afforded.

The outcome was a successful collaboration between artists living in indigenous communities, educational institutions and multinational corporations, without precedent in this region. The final artworks hang in each of the 350 serviced rooms and apartments and are impressive in scale, design and content, portraying authentic and traditional imagery from the central Arnhem Land region. Babbarra Designs look forward to developing similar projects which will become an intergral part of developing a sustainable textile business for the women of Maningrida.

Artists - Deborah Wurrkidj, Jennifer Wurrikidj, Elizabeth Gandabuma , Doreen Nuddjuanga , Linda Gurrawana , Trudy Nicky, Jeniifer Koenig, Marianne Dyason, Bobbie Ruben from Babbarra Women’s Centre in Maningrida in collaboration with Charles Darwin Unversity, Darwin and Gwelo Devlopments, Darwin.

See also: Bobbie Ruben's biography