With Every Fibre Stitch and Thread
You can support Mata Mata homelands by ordering and paying for an exquisite Batumbil Burarrwanga pandanus mat for $500. It takes Batumbil between five and seven days to make a pandanus mat. This involves collecting the pandanus leaves, removing the prickles and scaping the leaves. Then the dyes have to be prepared. This involves another digging and hunting expedition to find the right plants whose roots bring out the black, purple, yellow, red, orange, brown and white colours. The leaves are then dipped into boiling pots of dye and then left out to dry. Then the intricate weaving process begins. Batumbil is a master innovator. It may be that the mat will have some beach pebbles woven into the fabric. But most of all as she will tell you, it is the earth and atmosphere of the Mata Mata wanga (spiritual home) that is captured in the mat. These mats are truly sacred art objects that will forever bring grace to your home or work place! Every stitch matters. Please download the photographic essay about Batumbil's weaving above or follow this link: https://www.isx.org.au/files/files/projects/with_every_fibre_stitch_and_thread_0.pdf
What buying a mat for $500 achieves? There is no greater pleasure for Batumbil than capturing the spirit of Mata Mata in art and weaving. By purchasing the mat you are bringing a bit of Mata Mata into your life. We firmly believe in the years to come these weavings may well grow in value but all too often the artist's first price is not adequate. $500 is a good fair price that helps bring much needed income into the community. So you can rest assured that you are doing the right thing. The ISX also supports the cooperative arts and crafts centres at Yirrkala and Galiwinku which are so important in bringing in income for artisans and communities. Your wilingness to pay a good price for Batumbil's master works also means that the price of her artworks for sale in the cooperative centres may also be able to rise. These though are tricky issues and the essential fact is that you are recognising the skill of one of the master weavers and artists of North East Arnhem land.
Batumbil Burarrawanga is a national living treasure. She is a master craftswoman and artist. Her pandanus mats and paintings are renowned not only by the European world but also within the Yolngu world of sacred ceremony and manikay. Batumbil came to her beloved Mata Mata homeland as a young baby and has never left. She draws her strength from her land and life here. Batumbil home schooled all of her children and hearing of this Rev Shepherdson ("Sheppie") built the Gatirri School at Mata Mata around her as teacher.
Over the past decades, since the Northern Territory Intervention and the Federal and Northern Territory government's push to ensure families leave homelands and head into regional centres, support has fallen away for Mata Mata. Homelands are places where people are healthiest and happiest. Batumbil and Mata Mata are credited with 'saving' several young people who had become lost and got into trouble with police and prisons in the towns and cities.
For many complicated reasons the organisations that have responsibility for supporting homelands are also struggling. Through all this, by any means possible, Batumbil has continued to maintain Mata Mata and the neighbouring Gikal homeland.
Batumbil was instrumental in getting solar power for Mata Mata in 2004 and has helped several people to attain anthropology degrees and write books on Yolngu culture.
Batumbil is a profound philosopher and thinker. Her wisdom is usually transmitted through fun or a joke or a wry smile. Batumbil is a great rock for her family, her home land and her culture.
Batumbil's main dream is to see Mata Mata (Yirritja Gumatj) and Gikal (Dhuwa Galpu) develop as two yothu yindi learning centres for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. She says "If you come with an open heart, don't worry about rupiah, I will teach you." The object is not money it is heart and soul. But the fact is steady income flow is needed and important. Morever it needs to flow into the community in ways that support the natural authority of the elders. Mata Mata homeland needs several layers of investment and the first and most important layer is to support Batumbil as the community leader.
We hope to support with Batumbil with a long term fund that can be used to support herself and her community over a long period of time. We would welcome any comments or questions about this process. It is important from a Yolngu and a non-Yolngu perspective that everything is transparent and clear.
Our national living treasures campaigns are of great importance. One of the best ways to support homelands is to support the elders who are the heart and soul of the community. They also have the wisdom and authority to make decisions and to direct funds to where it can best be invested. Too often decisions in Canberra or the capital cities or at a regional centre undermine the natural, organic leadership and intelligence of the community. By supporting Batumbil we are supporting the health of the homelands and the extended Yolngu family structure.
The ISX takes 10 per cent of funds raised to support its own administration. For over ten years it has operated with no funding from government and has distributed substantial resources and funds to Aboriginal communities all over Australia. Our priority is to ensure funds go direct into the hands of Aboriginal people, organisations at grass roots community levels. The ISX is 100 per cent Aboriginal owned.