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Shining a light on Indigenous craftsmanship

Shining a light on Indigenous craftsmanship


From the tropical forests of Elcho Island, just off the coast of Arnhem Land, comes a range of lighting that simply cannot be replicated. Yuta Badayala (In a New Light) is part of an ongoing collaboration between Sydney furniture studio and store, Koskela, and the Yolngu weavers of the Elcho Island Arts Centre.

The collaboration, which began in 2009, is widely recognised for its aesthetic and social initiative. Working together with Mavis Ganambarr, one of Australia’s leading fibre artists, the collaboration featured in the Powerhouse Museum’s Love Lace exhibition (2013) and, more recently, was a finalist in the NGV’s Rigg Design Prize (2015).

Photo courtesy Yuta Badayala.

Photo courtesy Koskela.

Ganambarr and her fellow weavers use traditional techniques that utilise local plants and grasses to create colourful everyday objects – baskets, fishnets and now lighting. Describing the island’s forests as their art supply store, the Yolngu weavers source fibre from the Pandanus plant and Red-fruiting Kurrajong tree, developing dyes from roots, ash and plant leaves that are in season. Known as bush string, each individual fibre goes through a series of manual processes before it can be used, with the seasonality of the leaves informing the colours and ensuring no single object is the same.

Photo by Shantanu Starick.

Photo by Shantanu Starick.

For Australian designer, Charles Wilson, it is the genuine nature of the Yuta Badayala project that delights. “The designs have such a great vitality – one that speaks of a genuine creative empathy between the artists and designers. It is unique in Australian design – an ongoing collaboration between designers and Indigenous artists.” It is the quality, combined with the uniqueness of each finished piece, that makes this a truly authentic range of Australian design – one to be handed down through the generations.

Lead image, courtesy Koskela.


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