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Women's Business

The bright, bold and beautiful textiles of Bábbarra Women’s Centre are on show this month as CDU Art Gallery presents colourful exhibition Manburrba – Our Story of Printed Cloth. 

By Kate Conway

Since 1989, the Centre’s internationally renowned textile studio, Bábbarra Designs, has operated as a social enterprise, providing financial independence for women of the community, surrounding homelands and future generations.

Jessica Stalenberg is Manager of Bábbarra Women’s Centre and says the artists are no stranger to seeing their works exhibited on a large scale, but this is the first time there’s been a significant survey of works from the Art Centre. 

“It’s the first time their whole story has been covered from start to present. It's covering the early foundations of very small lino print on cloth through to the large-form screen prints that are being made now,” she says. 

“We’re proud that the whole centre is represented, and happy that it’s looked at a few of the families that have had three generations of women practising at the centre.”

Curated by CDU Art Gallery Curator Dr Joanna Barrkman, the exhibition features over 80 vibrant hand-printed textiles from 24 different artists, as well as limited-edition prints on paper, sculptures and basketry. 

“It can be quite difficult to present textiles in a fine art setting, because they are harder to work with than canvas or bark or sculpture. CDU have done a fantastic job of presenting textiles as works of art,” Stalenberg says.

Manburrba is the Kuninjku language word for cloth, and the printed designs portray significant ancestral stories of West Arnhem Land Country and cultures. The exhibition visually depicts a story of women’s empowerment and celebrates the Top End’s thriving textiles industry. 

“It’s an important exhibition for Darwin and the Northern Territory to host. Bábbarra Women’s Centre is just one of many Art Centres in the Top End working with textiles and we've been doing it for a long time,” Stalenberg says.

“We’ve got customers that were buying textiles 20 years ago. Bábbarra have just kept going, and now with Indigenous Fashion Projects, Indigenous textiles are really booming, and it’s amazing to see that a small women’s centre were pivotal and there at the beginning of it all.”

Head to CDU Art Gallery and soak up the history, beauty and talent brought to you by the artists of Bábbarra Women’s Centre.

Manburrba – Our Story of Printed Cloth

Photos: Jessica Stalenberg. Courtesy Bábbarra Women's Centre

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