Fibre art, 'Yawk Yawk Spirits' (young woman water spirit beings), woven bamboo / pandanus leaves, made by Anniebell Marrngamarrnga, Maningrida, Northern Territory, Australia, 2010
Yawk Yawk Spirits (young woman water spirit beings) is an important work by Anniebell Marrngamarrnga, a Kunwinjku woman from Maningrida in western Central Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory. The fibre art of Maningrida, renowned throughout Australia, has been passed down through many generations. Most of the fibre work is made by women. Coiled baskets, dilly and string bags, fish traps and mats are also made there. Marrngamarrnga's work is innovative, playful and exquisitely executed.
The work represents the traditional beliefs and stories of Marrngamarrnga's husband (Dick Nadjalorro). These mythological figures are often depicted with a fish tail, somewhat like a mermaid, and live in freshwater streams and rock pools at Kubumi.
Yawk Yawk Spirits is constructed, dyed and worked with materials and dyes from Anniebell Marrngamarrnga 's local environment. A bamboo frame supports the pattern of dyed and finely woven pandanus leaves that are worked in segments. The technique Marrngamarrnga has used to work the dyed pandanus fibres is similar to that used in traditional needle lace, except it is worked in circles instead of a grid of rows, more common in needle lace.
Yawk Yawk Spirits was a finalist in the Powerhouse Museum International Lace Award 2010 which featured work from 20 countries. This is a significant example of fine workmanship and innovative design, woven from the fibre of the land, which reflects the unadulterated cultural traditions of Central Arnhem Land.
Lindie Ward, Curator Design & Society, May 2012
Pandanus leaves are collected from the bush with a long hooked stick. The centre serrated edge is peeled off and the leaves are split in two then dyed with brews of local roots and plants. The frame is prepared in bamboo. The dry leaves are then stitched onto the bamboo frame with a needle from the outside of the shapes into the centres which gives an attractive corkscrew shading to the stitching. This work will take many hours.
Maningrida was set up as a ration and trading post in the late 1950s and is now a successful arts centre situated close to the Maningrida airport. There are 34 outstations in an area of 10,000 square kilometres around Maningrida which supports a population of 2600 people. The cultural diversity of this region is evident in a wide variety of dance, design and music.
Maningrida Arts and Culture, established in 1973, shows and sells the work of artists from this area. It is owned by the Bawaninga Aboriginal Corporation which assists more than 250 artists to stay in their homelands by selling their work through the corporation.