Marrawuddi Gallery has been housed in the Bowali Visitor Centre for a number of years, providing a platform for almost 300 Indigenous artists from the Kakadu region to showcase their work over the years. This month, the doors are flung open to the new digs of Marrawuddi Arts. We caught up with Manager Katie Hagebols for a chat.
Tell us about Marrawuddi Arts – what is it?
Marrawuddi Arts is owned and managed by Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation on behalf of the Mirarr Traditional Owners.
In recent years, Marrawuddi has expanded beyond its historical gallery role to become a vibrant Community Art Centre supporting Bininj (Indigenous) artists across the Kakadu region and providing a retail outlet where the public can access extraordinary artworks.
What made the old Jabiru Bakery the perfect choice for your new digs?
Location, location, location! And, of course, the vast potential of the larger location, allowing for a wonderful workshop and retail space with the huge potential for outdoor engagement, for example weaving and painting spaces.
What obstacles did you come across, being in a biosecurity location during the pandemic?
We were extremely lucky to be trapped in Kakadu – we have an amazing backyard and our main priority was, and is, to keep community safe. However, with that came its challenges – irregular food deliveries, food prices and reduced community engagement.
We also had the unfortunate circumstance of Bowali Visitor Centre, Marrawuddi Gallery’s previous home, closing for maintenance the week we were supposed to re-open, so we haven’t had an operating space since March this year!
The Jabiru bill recently passed the senate, handing the town and post-mining future of the region back into Mirarr control. What’s the response been like in Jabiru?
There’s been a real juxtaposed vibe in Jabiru, obviously with the closure of Ranger Mine – a lot of families are leaving Jabiru – but then there’s this undercurrent of exciting change and renewal.
Having Mirarr land being handed back to Mirarr Traditional Owners is so historic in their massive journey of protecting country and culture. As one of the young Mirarr Traditional Owners Simon Mudjandi says,
“We look forward to welcoming people to Jabiru and Kakadu to learn about out our country and culture. As the town changes, we hope Jabiru will be recognised around the world as a significant cultural hub, a place where learning about living culture is accessible in a meaningful way.”
The new Marrawuddi Arts will play an important role in that.
What do you hope this new location does for the community and artists of the region?
Marrawuddi, as an Aboriginal-controlled arts centre, embodies the post-mining direction of Jabiru and will be a cultural hub for locals and tourists alike. We hope the new location creates a welcoming space for both tourists and artists, engaging and exchanging Kakadu’s rich 65,000 plus years of Indigenous culture.
Tell us – when can we visit Marrawuddi?
The new Art Centre opens to the public on Fri 2 Oct and we are very much looking forward to welcoming visitors from then onwards!