Ernabella Arts is an Aboriginal owned and run corporation rich in culture and creative artistry. It promotes and supports ethical practice in the creation and sale of Indigenous art. The centre is Australia’s oldest, continuously run Indigenous Art Centre and was established in 1948. This is Ernabella Arts' 82nd year of enlivening the community with creativity and expression. One of Ernabella's celebrated Indigenous artists is Margaret Dagg, the creator behind our exclusive collection of Batik cushions. We are bubbling with excitement to present to you the art centre's incredible history, culture and artistic expressions.
Ernabella Arts was established in the Pukatja Community, located in the eastern end of the Musgrave Ranges in far north west of South Australia. Pukatja was the first permanent settlement on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands. Historically, the art centre was established by the Presbyterian Board of Missions in 1937 as a mission. However, in 1948 a craft room was erected, and the centre quickly developed a reputation for producing beautiful, unique patterns that became known as the Ernabella walka, or anapalayaku walka.
The walka technique draws heavily upon the visual resources abundant on Tjukurpa country. It refers to all manner of flora, fauna and general way of life. This technique possesses a truly unique approach to the centre which teeters between representational and abstract.
The beauty of the centre's practice of Batik stems from the artists thirst for learning and enthusiasm to engage with various cultures and techniques. It was introduced to the centre in 1971 by a visiting young American. However, this sparked an insatiable curiosity which led to the expedition of several Ernabella women to Indonesia to expand their practice. They visited the Batik Research Institute in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and brought back with them a host of techniques and skills which they shared with the community.
The finished product is a wonderful fusion of techniques traditional to the Indigenous community of Yogyakarta and completely unique to Ernabella Arts and the walka expression. The designs that Ernabella artists employ are distinctive in style to the artist, but are unified through their reflection of Tjukurpa country. Ernabella Batik is typified by a flowing, spontaneous line, a considered and finely balanced placement of the design elements and a joyous, often dramatic use of colour.
Margaret Dagg is a nationally celebrated Batik artist and has been involved in the arts from a young age. Local to the area, Margaret went to school in Ernabella and was one of four children. Through Ernabella Arts, Margaret learned all manner of crafts, including spinning wool, rug making and knitting and making moccasins from kangaroo skins with oil designs. However, it was the Batik that she really connected with. She is currently the only artist left who practices Batik on a regular basis, making from her home studio on the outskirts of a date farm just outside the community of Ernabella. Her Batik works are exhibited in the Art Gallery of South Australia, the National Museum of Australia, the National Gallery of Australia and the National Gallery of Victoria. It is a true honour for Koskela to play host to her exclusive collection of Batik cushions, each one a one-off design.
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