Ernabella Arts, Aboriginal Textile Workshop

Indigenous Australians are well-known for their inspiring craft creations, using bright colors and unique techniques to create inimitable items. Their creations are not just a testimony to Australia’s rich pre-colonial culture, but also an exceptional demonstration of imagination and skill.
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Ernabella batik silk scarf, Nyukana (Daisy) Baker, Ernabella Arts Inc., Photo Dragi Markovic, National Museum of Australia.
Nowadays, Ernabella remains one of the oldest workshops of textile design in Australia. It was launched in 1948 by the Pukatja community, after a period of creative production under the auspices of a missionary school. The local population decided to dedicate their creative energies to crafts, producing and selling their work through their own independent organisation.
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Orange, green and purple batik silk scarf, Nyukana (Daisy) Baker, Ernabella Arts Inc., Photo Dragi Markovic, National Museum of Australia.
The workshop is operated by native artisans of the Musgrave Ranges area, which is located in the central part of the continent. The natural beauty of the open desert area inspired the creation of ceramics, textiles and paintings, capturing the plants and the animals in an abstract fashion.
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Woollen rug with Walka design, Artist unknown, Ernabella Arts Inc., Photo Lannon Harley, National Museum of Australia.
When the workshop opened, the local craftsmen developed a particular method for weaving textiles using a manual loom. Later on, the focus shifted to elaborate patterns and prints, based on themes taken from natural and spiritual images. Today, the local artisans of Ernabella still create a wide variety of items, from ceramics to paintings and textiles, all inspired by the natural landscape of the region and the local religious myths. The Ernabella textile creations also include silk fabrics created with batik techniques representing the visual images of the indigenous culture.
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Walka design, Nyukana (Daisy) Baker, Ernabella Arts Inc., Photo Lannon Harley, National Museum of Australia.
The National Museum of Australia in Canberra holds a large collection of textiles and ceramic creations, all made with complex patterns inspired by the natural panorama and wildlife of the Australian desert. Moreover, the complex religious life of the indigenous populations provides a stable foundation for their textile art.
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Ernabella Nyurpaya design, Nyukana (Daisy) Baker, Ernabella Arts Inc., Photo Lannon Harley, National Museum of Australia.
Artisans and designers such as Yilpi Adamson, Renita Stanley and Tjunkaya Tapaya have been recognised as major contributors to the development and diffusion of indigenous creations beyond their territorial sphere.
The on-going creative project of the Ernabella artists challenges the notion of “traditional craft” and reveals the new paths of creative innovation based on a millennial cultural heritage.
www.ernabellaarts.com.au
Cover Photo: Walka design, Nyukana (Daisy) Baker, Ernabella Arts Inc., Photo Lannon Harley, National Museum of Australia.