Experiments with tradition

Nicolas Rothwell; 23/4/10

Poised, graceful, as slender as a fresh-cut strip of green pandanus, Mavis Ganambarr, the queen of Elcho Island’s strong school of fibre art-making, bends quietly to her tasks. Here, beneath the spreading shade tree, in a garden back yard in crowded Galiwinku community, is her studio: black cockatoos screech overhead and scatter the seed-husks; children wander, dogs prowl, but Ganambarr’s slim fingers never cease their movement. Forward, back; forward, back: she pounds and scrapes the pale kurrajong branch before her into long slivers while her clan relatives and her daughters watch.  Close at hand is everything she needs for her art: an art subtle and simple, rich in scope and rapidly evolving. During the past decade, as Ganambarr’s reputation in the wider world has grown, so has her range. She pours out new work, not just the plant-fibre baskets and shell-decorated dillybags that have long been staples at the island’s art centre, but bracelets, soft sculptures of animals, even human figures made from fibre and twine. Her most intensely decorated bags and baskets, multi-coloured, shell-adorned, with bright feathers shot through their weave, are works that have left utility far behind. They belong in cabinets of curiosities, or fine art galleries, their normal destination these days.
See: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/arts/experiments-with-tradition/story-e6frg8n6-1225857137978; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elcho_Island; http://www.google.com.au/imgres?imgurl=http://www.aboriginalartonline.com/regions/rimages/arnhemmap.gif&imgrefurl=http://www.aboriginalartonline.com/regions/topend2.php&h=220&w=420&sz=8&tbnid=FmC_qZaGqLyW8M:&tbnh=65&tbnw=125&prev=/images%3Fq%3Delcho%2Bisland%2Bmap&hl=en&usg=__E5gY1uAYm9guYLHFi1KQrxZkV_4=&ei=FkDRS5boA43i7APSmLi1Dw&sa=X&oi=image_result&resnum=4&ct=image&ved=0CBAQ9QEwAw