Bábbarra Women’s Centre printed textiles grace CDU Art Gallery

Charles Darwin University’s (CDU) Art Gallery will be teaming with bold and colourful hand-printed textiles this month, with the launch of new exhibition Manburrba: our story of printed cloth from Bábbarra Women’s Centre.

The exhibition celebrates the creative journey undertaken by Maningrida women over the past 37 years, featuring more than 85 striking and colourful hand-printed textiles made by 24 artists, as well as limited edition prints-on-paper, sculptures and basketry.

It is the first major survey exhibition of Bábbarra’s textile printmaking to be held in the Northern Territory.

Bábbarra Women’s Centre artist Raylene Ngarridjdjan Bonson said her artwork in the Manburrba exhibition highlights three generations of textile artists in her family.

“I feel happy to see my mum’s printed textile featured in the Manburrba exhibition,” Ms Bonson said.

“I printed the lino-block print Marebu (pandanus mat) on behalf of my mother. I hope it inspires Rosanna, my eldest daughter to print for me.”

CDU Art Gallery and exhibition curator Dr Joanna Barrkman said this partnership rekindles connections from more than 25 years ago, when the University was active in introducing limited-edition printmaking techniques to artists in Maningrida.

“It has been an honour to partner with Bábbarra Women’s Centre to curate this exhibition over eighteen months with the stunning textiles produced by this innovative group of women,” Dr Baarkman said.

“Workshops in lino-block printing and etching were delivered at Bábbarra Women’s Centre in 1998-99. The Manburrba exhibition charts the terrain covered by the artists since that time.”

Manburrba is the word for cloth in the Kuninjku language of Arnhem Land.

As one of Australia’s major First Nations textile enterprises, Bábbarra Women’s Centre has fostered the technique of printing on cloth for many years, with their reputation for large-scale, repeat, screen-printed textiles spanning Australia and the globe.

“Bábbarra’s prints and textiles have been widely exhibited, nationally and internationally, in cities such as Los Angeles, Kolkata, Paris and Sydney,” she said.

“Textile art has emerged as the creative medium to achieve improved economic livelihoods for three generations of Maningrida’s women, while also enabling them to maintain, transmit and express their cultural practices and expand their creativity on Country.”

Manburrba: our story of printed cloth from Bábbarra Women’s Centre opens at CDU Art Gallery on Friday 4 August 2023 at 6pm. The exhibition continues until 15 October 2023