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Riverland Riches

Nestled in the lush, picturesque Nauiyu Community in the Douglas-Daly Region is Merrepen Arts, a world-renowned Art Centre bursting with colour and culture.

By Kate Conway 

Founded in 1986, primarily as a women’s centre, the wealth of local artistic talent led to the development of the Art Centre, quickly growing to be the established epicentre of creativity it is today.

Merrepen is home to over 120 member artists practising a wide range of traditional and contemporary mediums including painting, weaving and ceramics, as well as the striking textile work synonymous with the region. Merrepen’s airy, elevated gallery is virtually overflowing with bolts of fabric featuring screen prints, batik, silk printing, and vibrant patterns created from hand-printed linocuts and etchings.

Merrepen Arts CEO Cathy Laudenbach says 2022 has been an exciting time for artists from the Centre, with showings at prestigious national and international exhibitions.

“Six Merrepen artists were in the exhibition of Top End Textiles at the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles, and two artists featured travelled to Los Angeles to see the exhibition and participate in a floor talk at the gallery,” she says.

“Patricia Marrfurra McTaggart presented work in Sculpture by the Sea in Bondi, and Kieren Karritpul had a solo exhibition in Melbourne at Tolarno Gallery. The artists feel proud to have been involved in these outside opportunities.”

Situated 240 kilometres south of Darwin, next to the Daly River and surrounded by hills and billabongs, the thriving natural environment is integral to the art produced, with artists taking inspiration from the wetlands, animals and plants such as pandanus and the Centre’s namesake, Merrepen.

Linking culture from the past to the present in a way that is progressive and dynamic is part of the Centre’s ethos. From the beautiful, mischievous mermaids that inhabit billabongs and outsmart wayward men, to the starry night sky guiding hunters home, traditional Dreamtime stories are proudly, prominently represented.

Without an online gallery, a visit in person is a must to be fully immersed in the beauty of Merrepen Arts. Tours are welcome and visits outside of normal opening hours can be arranged, so make a day of it and experience this special, deeply cultural place.

Merrepen Arts Centre

Thumbnail & inset: Founding Mothers of Merrepen Arts. Taken at the billabong Daly River. Photo: Patricia McTaggart. circa, 1989.
Header: Kieren Karritpul, 'Two green fish baskets' (detail), 2022, acrylic on canvas.

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