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  • Writer's pictureAkasha Usmani

Weaving a cultural connection between Indian and Australian Indigenous women textile artists.

Jarracharra Dry Season Wind is an exhibition that highlights the exceptional textile artwork created by Australia’s Indigenous women from Western Arnhem Land, Australia. The exhibition features a remarkable collection of pieces showcasing women's artistic talent and ability to blend their ancient narratives and contemporary techniques. Through this exhibition, one can witness the rich and inherent cultural knowledge of indigenous women. The Jarracharra Exhibition was presented for the first time in India and was on display in Kolkata and Mumbai which has now arrived in New Delhi. The textiles will also be displayed in Chennai and Bengaluru.

The exhibition is an initiative of Babbarra Women’s Centre, a textile-producing art centre in the remote area of Western Arnhem Land, Australia. The centre provides a platform for women to create and sell their artwork while offering training and support to help women develop new skills and grow their businesses. The Babbarra Women's Centre plays an important role in empowering women, preserving cultural traditions, and promoting economic development in the region. The Burarra word "Jarracharra" serves as a metaphor for the way the Babbarra Women's Centre combines various Aboriginal traditions and narratives together, similar to how for thousands of years, the Jarracharra (dry season winds) have brought together indigenous people for ceremony, dancing, and ritual.

Textiles have long been an integral aspect of Indigenous cultures. It is important to keep the cultural identity and pass down traditional knowledge from one generation to another. Textile exchanges across communities are one way in which this information is passed on. A major part of the exhibition was the cultural exchange which took place between Indigenous Australian and Indian women during the exhibition in Kolkata, India. The exchange between Indigenous communities is a crucial part of maintaining traditional methods and knowledge. These interactions promote a sense of community and connection while also fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of various cultures. This also led to the development of new techniques and styles, as artisans incorporate new ideas and materials into their work.

Jarracharra Exhibition at New Delhi

During the exhibition in Kolkata, two prominent Indigenous women artists from Australia's Northern Territory, Deborah Wurrkidj and Janet Marawarr visited Indian states - West Bengal and Odisha to participate in the Jarracharra exhibition’s cultural exchange. The exchange contributed to the strengthening of the cultural linkages between the two communities, where the two communities had a rich learning experience as well. Deborah Wurrkidj and Janet Marawarr embarked on a journey to India to exchange knowledge and explore heritage textiles in Indian states. The trip was part of a cultural exchange program aimed at promoting cross-cultural understanding and collaboration between artists and artisans from different parts of the world.

Wurrkidj and Marawarr, who are both members of the Indigenous community in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, brought with them their own artistic traditions and techniques, as well as their deep respect for the cultural heritage of their ancestors. During their visit to India, Wurrkidj and Marawarr had the opportunity to visit Indian villages and interact with local weavers and artists who specialize in traditional techniques such as Jamdani (muslin textile), Kantha (stitching patchwork) and block printing. They were amazed by the Indian artists' talent, creativity, and the brilliant colors and patterns of the fabrics they saw.

The two Australian Indigenous artists taught the women artists about the usage of natural dyes and the significance of sustainable practices by sharing their own expertise with them. They worked together with Indian women artists to develop fresh patterns that combined Indian and Aboriginal elements, creating a special synthesis of two different artistic traditions. Throughout their journey, Wurrkidj and Marawarr were struck by the similarities between the Aboriginal and Indian cultures, particularly in their reverence for nature and their deep connection to the land. They were also impressed by the resilience and creativity of the local communities

While there are some differences between the Indian and Aboriginal traditional textiles, there are certain similarities as well in terms of the materials, techniques, and cultural significance. These Indigenous tribes have a long history of weaving, dying, and embroidering, and the textiles they produce are a reflection of the distinctive cultures, beliefs, and practices of each community. A major similarity is the use of intricate designs and patterns that are often symbolic of cultural beliefs and practices. For example, both Indian and Aboriginal textiles feature geometric shapes, animal motifs, and abstract designs that are linked to their stories, myths, and rituals. The use of natural dyes is another similarity between Indian and Aboriginal textiles. Both Indigenous groups have a long history of using natural materials like leaves, bark, and roots to dye their textiles. The colors used in these textiles are often symbolic of cultural beliefs and practices.

Aboriginal and Indian textiles both have important cultural and spiritual value. Textiles serve as more than just decorative objects for these Indigenous tribes; they also play an important role in rituals, ceremonies, and other cultural activities. For instance, textiles are frequently presented as gifts at weddings and other key occasions in Indian culture, where they play a significant role in religious ceremonies and celebrations.

The exchange of knowledge and cultural connection between the two communities played an important role in bringing the two distinct cultures togethers. The artists shared their unique traditions and techniques, creating deeper understanding for each other’s culture.


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