Yuta Badayala [a new light]
Yuṯa Baḏayala is a collaboration between traditional Yolngu weavers from Elcho Island Arts in Arnhem Land and Koskela.
It is a long term project very close to our heart, which aims to provide Indigenous weavers with an additional stream of income from their work and to introduce new and compelling ‘art products’ into contemporary interiors. We feel really passionately that we have an obligation and a meaningful role to play in using our design skills to address some of the social issues that are around us.
The initial products we have developed are a range of lighting. Each light is unique and relies completely on the individual artist’s interpretation of the form and there is no replica production involved at all.
“Koskela came to us with the idea of doing our weaving on lampshades. I was interested in this new idea.” said Mavis Warrngilna Ganambarr a senior weaver from Elcho Island. “I thought it would be interesting to take our traditional Yolngu materials and use them on Balanda objects. We all thought this would be a good way to show a new audience what can be done by Yolngu artists with materials from the bush.”
“Yolngu women have been weaving objects using fibre (such as pandanas grass and bush string) for many hundreds of years. In the old times we made fibre objects for ceremony and for carrying and catching things. These days we still make these objects, but we can also make new things with these fibres. The lampshade project was an opportunity to try something new and show our artwork in a new light.”
“By continuing to use these traditional techniques we can keep the culture strong, and it can go on. This is what I have learned from my grandmother.”
Our directors, Russel and Sasha have visited Elcho Island on a number of occasions, which has reinforced strong family ties between their children and the grandchildren of two of the key weavers, Mavis Ganambarr and Judy Manany. This has enabled them to properly understand the process involved in making the lampshades, which is extremely labour intensive. A large size lampshade could take up to a month for one of the women to complete – involving going out into the bush to collect materials, preparing the materials , dying them with natural dyes created from plant materials found on the island and then finally weaving the pandanus or bush string on the lampshade frame.
“Sasha and Russel from Koskela came to Elcho Island to learn about how we collect materials and use them. We took them into the bush to show them how we cut down the pandanas grass, which we use for weaving, and the kurrajong tree from which we make bush string. We showed them how we use natural dyes to dye the grass and bush string and then how we weave with the grass and string.”
“We took Sasha and Russel into the bush and said ‘let’s go shopping’, and they said, ‘where are the shops?’. This made us laugh because for us the bush is our art materials shop, it is where we get all our materials from to do our artwork, it is all around us and it is free.”
From our perspective, Yuṯa Baḏayala is one of the most personally rewarding projects we have undertaken.
We feel extremely privileged to have been given an insight into the Yolngu culture and to have developed relationships with the wonderful weavers at Elcho Island Arts. The lights are so special as they are the embodiment of this culture and spirit and are filled with the stories and laughter of their makers.
Yuṯa Baḏayala has been exhibited in Japan, the Powerhouse Museum of Australia, Object Gallery and are featured in many office environments, including Qantas HQ and private residences.