Confluence at JamFactory, South Australia

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In conjunction with the 2017 TARNANTHI: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art, JamFactory is exhibiting striking contemporary Aboriginal design that is the result of strong partnerships and collaborative practices.

Confluence features two major bodies of work: furniture design by Nicole Monks and works by the Yolngu weavers of Elcho Island Arts, in collaboration with Sydney-based design company Koskela.

Sydney-based artist Nicole Monks is a Wajarri Yamatji woman with Aboriginal, English and Dutch ancestry. As the recipient of the Arts NSW Indigenous Design Mentorship, Monks was mentored for 12 months by Terri Winter from Top3Design during the development of her Marlu furniture range. The pieces create a meeting point where Aboriginal philosophies of sustainability, innovation and collaboration merge with contemporary art and design principles. In her works, Monks uses the recognisable language of furniture design while seamlessly weaving traditional cultural narratives that both beguile and intrigue. “The collection is richly layered and embedded with stories,” says JamFactory’s Senior Curator Margaret Hancock Davis.


Monks’ Marlu furniture range was inspired by a trip back on Country to visit the artist’s 93-year-old ‘auntie’ Dora Dann, who fondly recalled the renowned kangaroo tail stew made by Monks’ great-grandmother. The design and function of the Marlu (‘kangaroo’) range, represents the importance of knowledge transfer and the role of memory and lived experience.

The collection is characterised by seamless joints, simplified lines and a minimalist style, with Monks utilising materials such as Tasmanian blackwood timber, kangaroo leather and fur, hemp canvas and steel. The pieces displayed in Confluence, including the communal seating and table setting nyinajimanha (sitting together), 2016, wabarn-wabarn (bounce) chair, 2016 and the impressive throne-like walarnu (boomerang) chair, 2016, place traditional materials and cultural stories at the heart of contemporary Australian design.

Monks is the founder of blackandwhite creative, a project-driven company creating initiatives to generate conscious design and cultural awareness by collaborating with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal individuals and organisations. The company was founded in kinship with the Aboriginal principle of the interconnectedness of all things, with both the past and the present being connected and existing in a constantly evolving continuum. In this way, the design of Monks’ furniture pieces moves beyond the aesthetic to express the centrality of story, human connections, wellbeing and culture in her practice.

Located off the coast of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, Elcho Island is a remote island community with strong ties to culture, community and the environment. While Yolngu women have woven objects from fibres for many thousands of years, the collaboration with Koskela has encouraged the weavers to create new objects for a contemporary audience.

The collaborative relationship between the Yolngu weavers of Elcho Island Arts and Koskela is an exciting example of cross-cultural creative endeavours. Working together since 2009, they have an ongoing relationship built on trust, collaboration and the dual aim to innovate. The work featured in Confluence has emerged from Koskela’s regular trips to Elcho Island to learn from and work with Yolngu women in the creation of intricately woven contemporary design objects. In this innovative project, the Elcho Island women have integrated bush materials, string weaving techniques and traditional knowledge with contemporary design practice.

Yuta Badayala (a new light) is an ongoing project that celebrates traditional weaving practices through the creation of intricately crafted lampshades and decorative lighting products. We are pleased to be showing the Yuta Badayala lampshades alongside the impressive Shelter, 2015, which was developed by Koskela and the Yolngu weavers of Elcho Island for the Rigg Design Prize.

The Yolngu weavers of Elcho Island Arts have complete artistic licence in the creation of their lampshades, with each work being uniquely designed and handcrafted by each weaver. The pieces are crafted from fibres that have been gathered, prepared and dyed with local plant materials by the women in their local communities and lands. Usually made from pandanus or bush string following traditional processing methods, the lampshades exemplify the principles of good design paired with environmental sustainability and cultural preservation. “By continuing to use these traditional techniques we can keep the culture strong and it can go on,” says senior weaver Mavis Warrngilna Ganambarr.

The Yolngu weavers of Elcho Island Arts include:
Verity Burarrwanga
Margaret Dhorrpuy
Beth Djarrupi Wunungmurra
Sharon Djalambarr, Ruth Lulwarriwuy
Judy Manany
Mavis Warrngilna Ganambarr
Megan Yunupingu

By highlighting and celebrating creative collaborative relationships in contemporary Aboriginal design, Confluence embraces innovative cultural intersections, shining new light on traditional cultural practices and affirming shared futures.

Confluence is showing at JamFactory Adelaide from 29 September – 26 November 2017


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