from Anindilyakwa Arts Centre, Angurugu, Groote Eylandt
You’re both artists and project officers here at Anindikyakwa Arts Centre. How did you first come to making art?
Bernadette - My brothers taught me back on Mornington Island where I grew up. I would watch how they did paintings of the Wurlywin Man, Brolga Lady, rats and squid. I still paint some of those stories now. I also did art at school here on Angurugu after moving here when I was 7 years old.
Letoria - I started coming in one day a week to do activities with Bernadette. She and the other lady taught me how to do dyeing and now I’m here a lot.
The Arts Centre has recently begun focussing on dyeing with materials from community and the bush. How did this come about?
Letoria - A woman called Aly de Groot comes here sometimes to teach the ladies how to do the dyeing. My favourite colours to dye with are red and yellow.
Bernadette - We go out and collect old steel, dig out plant roots for the yellow dye and collect other leaves to make the black colour. We then come back to the Arts Centre, crunch up the leaves and wrap the fabric tightly around bits of steel. We then boil up two billies, one with the yellow dye and another for black. When they have been in the dye long enough we wash them out and hang them to dry outside community.
We go out to Umbakumba community on the other side of the Eylandt, to Malkala (an outstation) and fly Milyakburra on Bikkerton Island to dye with other women. Sometimes we visit aged care too. The old ladies there like to do dyeing. Dyeing is good fun. It makes the women come together and chat while we dye. They really enjoy doing it.
It’s coming in to wet season now. What is wet season like on Angurugu?
Bernadette - I love wet season. The rivers run and when the sea comes in all the fish come in too. They breed in the rivers. It’s much better for fishing. You catch lots of fish and it’s much cooler out on the water. You can even spear stingray!
Letroia - I love wet season too!
If you could see anyone in the world wearing a scarf you’d created, who would it be?
Bernadette - Magnolia Maymuru, the model from Yirrkala who went to this Miss World competition. I met her at the Art Fair in Darwin last year. She was lovely.
Having lived in this remote part of the Northern Territory for most of your lives, what do you love most about living here?
Bernadette - I love living here in Angurugu. It’s a good place with friendly people you can look up to. It’s a nice place. My children grew up on Milyakburra, a community on Bikkerton Island just off the coast of Groote Eylandt. There are lots of lovely fishing spots around Groote Eylandt and Bikkerton Island. I also love working at the Arts Centre here, doing dying and screen printing. My latest design is the of the mud mussel which we collect in the mangroves.
Letoria - I grew up here. Most of my Mum’s family are here. It’s home.
Interview by Amy Nicholas
Photography by Amy Nicholas