long water
  • Susan Balbunga with 'Bamugura' (in development), pandanus. Yurruwi (Milingimbi Island), 2019. Photo: Rhett Hammerton

  • Ruth Nalmakarra with ochre, Langarra (Howard Island), 2019. Photo: Rhett Hammerton.

  • Delissa Walker, Daintree rainforest, 2019. Photo: Rhett Hammerton

  • Delissa Walker with black palm fibre, Daintree rainforest, 2019. Photo: Rhett Hammerton

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long water

fibre stories

07 May–09 July 202007 May–09 Jul 2020

#longwater

long water: fibre stories illuminates spiritual, ancestral, and physical connections to water through fibre practices of artists from Yuwaalaraay (North West NSW), Quandamooka (Moreton Bay, South East QLD), Kuku Yalanji (Far North QLD), Zenadh Kes (Torres Strait Islands, QLD), Yurruwi (Milingimbi Island, NT), and surrounding homelands. Together this group—Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, spanning different generations and ancestries—share an inseparable relationship to water, be it the vast sea, inland waterways, or expansive river systems.

Water places have always been a well-spring of vitality, knowledge, and connection for people and culture, yet these sites also resonate with the experiences of colonisation, difficult histories, and the pressing environmental concerns of today.

Similarly, fibre work communicates a strong sense of history, place, and knowing, found in the meanings, materials, and processes of production. In long water, artists embed the links between water and weaving in intricate forms, layered prints, and spirited installations that are guided by ancestral memory and grounded in personal interpretations.

Collectively, long water celebrates the stories of regeneration and continuation of important cultural traditions, and the strong women and vital water places that sustain them. The country, and wide range of environments, practices, and knowledge represented speak to both deep time and contemporary experiences—bringing into focus the importance of water to our cultural health and our capacity for resilience.

This exhibition has been developed through relationships with artists and communities, particularly the Milingimbi Art and Culture Centre, and Ngalmun Lagau Minaral Arts | Art of Mua Island.

Artists

Susan Balbunga, Elisa Jane Carmichael, Sonja Carmichael, Fiona Elisala, Janet Fieldhouse, Ruth Nalmakarra, Paula Savage, Lucy Simpson, and Delissa Walker

Curated By
  • Freja Carmichael
Artist Bios
Susan Balbunga
b.1953. Wurra Wurra. Lives and works: Yurrwi/Milingimbi, NT

Susan Balbunga is an artist and cultural teacher working strongly in fibre mediums at Milingimbi Art and Culture centre. Growing up in the bush with her parents and extended family, she learnt from her father how to harvest, prepare, and paint hollow logs and barks. She brings this knowledge into her fibre practice, where she experiments playfully with forms, techniques, and the use of natural materials. Her work has been shown in group exhibitions The Gapu ga rangithirri ga ngurruthirri (the water is coming up, the water is going away) Woolloongabba Art Gallery (2017); and The Yiribana Gallery (a selection of works from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection in Art Gallery of New South Wales). Her work is held in collection of National Museum of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, and in private collections.

Elisa Jane Carmichael
b.1987. Ngugi, Quandamooka region. Lives and work: Brisbane and Minjerribah/North Stradbroke Island, QLD

Elisa Jane Carmichael is a multi-disciplinary artist honouring her salt-water heritage by incorporating materials collected from Country, embracing traditional weaving techniques, and expressing contemporary adaptations, through the mediums of painting, weaving, and textiles. She has created woven wearable collections that have been included in Cairns Indigenous Art Fair Fashion program and Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, Virginia, USA. Recent group exhibitions include Weaving the Way, the University of Queensland Art Museum (2020) and Transits and Returns, Vancouver Art Gallery (2020). She was a participating artist in the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Women’s Wealth project for the Asian Pacific Triennial 9. Carmichael’s work is held in private and public collections across Australia including the QAGOMA, University of Queensland Art Museum, Queensland University of Technology Art Museum, Queensland Museum, and the National Gallery of Victoria. She is represented by Onespace Gallery.

Elisa Jane Carmichael is a multi-disciplinary artist honouring her salt-water heritage by incorporating materials collected from Country, embracing traditional weaving techniques, and expressing contemporary adaptations, through the mediums of painting, weaving, and textiles. She has created woven wearable collections that have been included in Cairns Indigenous Art Fair Fashion program and Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, Virginia, USA. Recent group exhibitions include Weaving the Way, the University of Queensland Art Museum (2020) and Transits and Returns, Vancouver Art Gallery (2020). She was a participating artist in the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Women’s Wealth project for the Asian Pacific Triennial 9. Carmichael’s work is held in private and public collections across Australia including the QAGOMA, University of Queensland Art Museum, Queensland University of Technology Art Museum, Queensland Museum, and the National Gallery of Victoria. She is represented by Onespace Gallery.

Elisa Jane Carmichael
b.1987. Ngugi, Quandamooka region. Lives and work: Brisbane and Minjerribah/North Stradbroke Island, QLD
Sonja Carmichael
b.1958. Ngugi, Quandamooka region. Lives and works: Minjerribah/North Stradbroke Island, QLD

Sonja Carmichael is a fibre artist and active member of her community, sharing her weaving skills to ensure continuation of Quandamooka artistic practices. She works specifically in the medium of fibre basketry and woven sculptures to reflect her family’s cultural connections with the land and seas of Minjerribah. Carmichael is currently completing a fibre-art focused Master of Philosophy at the University of Queensland. Her work is shown in the Australia Art Collection, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. She has shown in group exhibitions; Legacy: Reflections on Mabo, Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts, 2019 (currently touring) and Gathering Strands, Redland Art Gallery, 2016, and showed with Onespace gallery at Cairns Indigenous Art Fair in 2019. Her work in held in numerous collections including QAGOMA, Museum of Brisbane, National Gallery of Victoria, and Redland Art Gallery.

Fiona Elisala
b.1985. Kala Kawa Ya. Torres Strait Islands. Lives and works: Mua Island, QLD

Fiona Elisala is an artist and studio assistant at Ngalmun Lagau Minaral Art Centre—Moa Arts in Kubin Village, Moa Island. Through the mediums of weaving and print making (lino-cutting, etching and screen-printing), Elisala preserves and continues the stories and cultural knowledge that her Aka (grandmother) has taught her. She has completed a Bachelor of Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. In 2019 she contributed to a creative collaboration between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Centres and design brand Koskela, culminating in the exhibition Ngalya/Together, Tarnanthi (2019). She received a highly commended award in the Gab Titui Indigenous Art Awards and has shown with Moa Arts at Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and Cairns Indigenous Art Fair. In 2018 she came second in the Fremantle Art Prize and received the 2018 Indigenous Art Centre Alliance Lucille Osborne Emerging Artist Fellowship (along with Paula Savage). Her work is held in private and public collections across Australia including the National Gallery of Australia and Cairns Regional Art Gallery.

Fiona Elisala is an artist and studio assistant at Ngalmun Lagau Minaral Art Centre—Moa Arts in Kubin Village, Moa Island. Through the mediums of weaving and print making (lino-cutting, etching and screen-printing), Elisala preserves and continues the stories and cultural knowledge that her Aka (grandmother) has taught her. She has completed a Bachelor of Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. In 2019 she contributed to a creative collaboration between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Centres and design brand Koskela, culminating in the exhibition Ngalya/Together, Tarnanthi (2019). She received a highly commended award in the Gab Titui Indigenous Art Awards and has shown with Moa Arts at Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and Cairns Indigenous Art Fair. In 2018 she came second in the Fremantle Art Prize and received the 2018 Indigenous Art Centre Alliance Lucille Osborne Emerging Artist Fellowship (along with Paula Savage). Her work is held in private and public collections across Australia including the National Gallery of Australia and Cairns Regional Art Gallery.

Fiona Elisala
b.1985. Kala Kawa Ya. Torres Strait Islands. Lives and works: Mua Island, QLD
Janet Fieldhouse
b.1971, Meriam Mir, Torres Strait Islands. Lives and works: Cairns, QLD

Janet Fieldhouse is a ceramic artist who has recently been combining clay with fibre work to celebrate the traditions, rituals, and material cultural of her heritage. Her hand-built forms translate water navigation traditions, land and sea relationships, and women’s adornment practices for ceremony and dance. Fieldhouse studied art at Cairns TAFE before moving to Canberra, where she obtained two degrees from the School of Art at the Australian National University. In 2019, Fieldhouse was awarded the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair Premier’s Award for Excellence and received the inaugural Indigenous Ceramic Art Award from Shepparton Art Museum in 2007, and again in 2012.  Recent group exhibitions include: Weaving the Way, The University of Queensland Art Museum (2020) The National: New Australian Art, Museum of Contemporary Art (2019) and Women’s Wealth Project as part of the Asia Pacific Triennial 9 at Queensland Art Gallery|Gallery of Modern Art. Her work is held in collections across Australia and internationally including Kaplan- Levi (USA), National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Australia, and the University of Queensland Art Museum. Fieldhouse is represented by Vivien Anderson Gallery.

Ruth Nalmakarra
b.1954. Liyagawumirr Garrawurra. Lives and works: Yurrwi/Milingimbi, NT

Ruth Nalmakarra is an artist with Milingimbi Art and Culture centre and is a strong community leader passionate about education and the sharing of knowledge. She has been weaving since she was a young girl and was taught painting by her family at Ngarra (cleansing) ceremony time during which Liyagawumirr/Garrawurra clan designs are used as body paint. The colour palette and geometric designs of Nalmakarra’s weaving and painting are informed by these clan designs. She has worked as a teacher at Milingimbi Central School and at Langarra outstation for many years before working at Milingimbi art centre as assistant manager (2005–2009) and has held board position with Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists (ANKA). Nalmakarra holds strong knowledge in identifying family and clan connections in cultural material and has worked extensively with national and international museums and collections. Recent group exhibitions include: Earth Matters at Form Gallery and she has shown with Milingimbi Art and Culture centre at Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair. Her work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria and Museum Victoria, among others.

Ruth Nalmakarra is an artist with Milingimbi Art and Culture centre and is a strong community leader passionate about education and the sharing of knowledge. She has been weaving since she was a young girl and was taught painting by her family at Ngarra (cleansing) ceremony time during which Liyagawumirr/Garrawurra clan designs are used as body paint. The colour palette and geometric designs of Nalmakarra’s weaving and painting are informed by these clan designs. She has worked as a teacher at Milingimbi Central School and at Langarra outstation for many years before working at Milingimbi art centre as assistant manager (2005–2009) and has held board position with Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists (ANKA). Nalmakarra holds strong knowledge in identifying family and clan connections in cultural material and has worked extensively with national and international museums and collections. Recent group exhibitions include: Earth Matters at Form Gallery and she has shown with Milingimbi Art and Culture centre at Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair. Her work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria and Museum Victoria, among others.

Ruth Nalmakarra
b.1954. Liyagawumirr Garrawurra. Lives and works: Yurrwi/Milingimbi, NT
Paula Savage
b.1982. Kala Lagaw Ya / Meriam Mir. Lives and works: Mua Island, QLD

Paula Savage is an artist at Ngalmun Lagau Minaral Art Centre—Moa Arts in Kubin Village, Moa Island. She works across weaving, printmaking, and jewellery to share contemporary expressions of culture, ancestral stories, and her people’s ongoing connections to the sea, land, and sky. She was a lead artist in a creative collaboration between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Centres and design brand Koskela, culminating in the exhibition Ngalya/Together at Tarnanthi (2019). Other recent group exhibitions include: Notation, Cross Art Projects (2019) and Lei It On, Contemporary lei and body adornment from the Torres Strait Islands, Cairns Regional Gallery (2017) and she has shown with Moa Arts at Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and Cairns Indigenous Art Fair. In 2018 she was awarded the Indigenous Art Centre Alliance Lucille Osborne Emerging Artist Fellowship (along with Fiona Elisala). Her work is held at the National Gallery of Victoria and in many private collections.

Lucy Simpson
b.1981. Yuwaalaraay/Walgett, Lightning Ridge and Angledool region. Lives and works: Sydney, NSW

Lucy Simpson is an artist and designer working across a range of mediums and platforms to communicate stories and experiences of country. She is the founder of Gaawaa Miyay (river daughter designs) and has recently been developing a range of conceptual collaborative projects in large scale interior and exterior applications which evoke the dhuwi/inner essence and energy of place (and the stories embedded within over time). In 2015 Simpson was recognised as an Australian Design Honoree by the Australian Design Centre. Recent group shows and projects include: Linear, Powerhouse Museum (2020); Measured Response, National Art School (2018); Four Thousand Fish, Sydney Festival (2018); and Primavera 2015: Young Australian Artists, Museum of Contemporary Art (2015).

Lucy Simpson is an artist and designer working across a range of mediums and platforms to communicate stories and experiences of country. She is the founder of Gaawaa Miyay (river daughter designs) and has recently been developing a range of conceptual collaborative projects in large scale interior and exterior applications which evoke the dhuwi/inner essence and energy of place (and the stories embedded within over time). In 2015 Simpson was recognised as an Australian Design Honoree by the Australian Design Centre. Recent group shows and projects include: Linear, Powerhouse Museum (2020); Measured Response, National Art School (2018); Four Thousand Fish, Sydney Festival (2018); and Primavera 2015: Young Australian Artists, Museum of Contemporary Art (2015).

Lucy Simpson
b.1981. Yuwaalaraay/Walgett, Lightning Ridge and Angledool region. Lives and works: Sydney, NSW
Delissa Walker
b. 1988. Kuku Yalanji. Lives and works: Daintree Rainforest, QLD

Delissa Walker is an artist skilfully working with Black Palm fibre. Using this material of her ancestors, she continues the teachings and knowledge of her grandmother, Ngadijina Wilma Walker in the ongoing making of Kankan—rainforest basket. Alongside her basketry work, she also explores the possibilities of weaving Black Palm into other contemporary forms and expression. She is also active in sharing her knowledge through weaving workshops and demonstrations. In 2017, she was a finalist in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. Recent group exhibitions include: Weaving the Way, The University of Queensland Art Museum (2020), Measured Response, National Art School (2018), ARTNOW FNQ 2017, Cairns Regional Gallery and Who’s Afraid of Colour? National Gallery of Victoria (2016). Her work is held in the collections of National Gallery of Victoria and Cairns Regional Gallery, among others.

Curator Bio

Freja Carmichael is a Ngugi woman and curator belonging to the Quandamooka People of Moreton Bay. She works broadly across the cultural sector with artists and communities on projects with a focus on collaborative curatorial approaches and the promotion and preservation of First Nations fibre knowledge. Carmichael recently curated Weaving the Way, The University of Queensland Art Museum (2019), Seeing Country, Redland Art Gallery (2019) and Around and within, Macquarie Group Collection space gallery (2018) and was a co-curator of The Commute, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (2018) and its follow on iterations as The Layover, Artspace Aotearoa (2019) and Transits and Returns, Vancouver Art Gallery (2020). Currently, Freja is curator IMA Belltower at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts and also works as an independent curator, writer and arts worker.


We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands where the IMA now stands. We pay our respect to Elders past, present, and emerging.