February 04, 2021
Regeneration & The Aboriginal Art of Basket Weaving
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
For our first team building event of 2021 we chose to listen to different voices and understand beliefs, concerns and solutions that guide and inspire us on our sustainability journey toward environmental and social justice.
The team at Arnhem are connected by the mission of working to create a sustainable future. As individuals we choose to infuse our values centred on sustainability into our personal lives, our behaviours and work.
It fills us with hope that sustainable fashion is coming ever closer to becoming the ‘norm’, but there is still a long way to go. While many still think of sustainable design as something trending and new, we only have to delve into history to see that our ancestors already had this all figured out.
This very thought inspired our first activity of the day.
Australia’s First Nations people are the oldest surviving culture on earth. They have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years. And in fact, we’d say that they were the pioneers of sustainable design. This is why we wanted to explore and learn from the ancient heritage of Aboriginal culture, and gain knowledge and understanding of the art of basket weaving.
We would like to acknowledge Bundjalung Country, and pay our respects to their custodians and Bundjalung elders past, present & future.
Our incredible basket weaving workshop was facilitated by Jugun Dandii, which translates to Embrace of Mother Earth. This cross-cultural project was hosted by Tania Marlowe and Debra Cole. Tania is a Bundjalung Nyangbal woman from Ballina, who generously shared stories of country, history, language and women’s work, together with her innate passion for basket weaving. Deb has a background in conservation and has a deep understanding of the local environment and native plants, with decades of experience in exploring ancient weaving techniques from cultures across the globe. Together they wove the intention of team building into Indigenous culture and Country, strengthening a sense of belonging and connectedness to one.
Nature knows its rhythms, it runs on its own time and accomplishes a myriad of things simultaneously, without a sense of haste or hurry. By learning about the native plants used to create weaving fibres, the seven cultural seasons in eastern Bundjalung Country, and understanding how these natural fibres are harvested and processed, we were able to tap into this harmonious cycle of nature inspiring us with reverence for Country.
We discovered that weaving takes on many forms: from practical objects for everyday life, to decorative items and ceremonial pieces. Baskets are hand made using natural, locally sourced plants, such as Bangalow Palm, Lomandra, swamp grass, Pandanus, etc. Plants are harvested respectfully with knowledge and a deep understanding of the cycles of nature, and it is this method that ensures these organic materials remain a renewable resource. The beauty of working with, rather than against nature is that items created are biodegradable and compostable.
Designing and creating functional items from nature requires knowledge, time and skill; our First Nations people have transformed materials from their local environment for thousands of years. The practice of weaving in this area was stopped by missionaries, but this cultural practice is now being regenerated to empower women and facilitate conscious community. The culture of weaving connects people through heart-based living, spirituality and connection to Mother Earth.
As lovers and creators of artisan products this workshop was deeply inspiring. Sitting in a safe space this feminine-led ritual allowed us to slow down and connect to something bigger. Tania and Deb led us through the therapeutic steps of Coil basketry. As we gathered and embraced bundles of natural fibres, we formed coils that we covered and stitched together with fibre threaded onto a needle. The basic stitching technique is a close blanket stitch, but often weavers use variations to create beautiful intricate patterns.