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Ngarrindjeri people

Wudinna, South Australia, Australia born 1944

Eel trap 1992 Place made: Berri, South Australia, Australia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, fibrework, woven sedge grass Ngarrindjeri coiled basketry

Dimensions: 44.0 h x 46.0 w x 87.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1995
Accession No: NGA 95.310

Together with a small number of Ngarrindjeri weavers, Yvonne Koolmatrie has been instrumental in reviving an Indigenous cultural tradition that was in danger of disappearing altogether. Eel trap is a replica of a utilitarian object that countless generations of Ngarrindjeri people have made to collect eels in the River Murray. All along the river systems of the south-east, Indigenous people created similar traps, for which they collected sedge grasses. These, dried and split, they wove into marine traps in the distinctive Ngarrindjeri manner.

Yvonne Koolmatrie is a member of the Ngarrindjeri nation of the Riverland region, north-west of Adelaide in South Australia; Lena Yarinkura is from the Rembarrnga people, Kune language group and Burnungku clan, living at Bolkdjam, an outstation of Maningrida, Central Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. Although they come from different areas, their work has connections in addition to their shared Indigenous heritage. Both create wondrous sculptural objects from natural fibres with all materials collected from the artists’ traditional countries. Both artists are proponents of continuous ancient weaving traditions from their respective regions, yet their singular pieces contribute critically to challenging perceptions of contemporary Indigenous art, creating new directions for fibre work in Australian art.

Brenda L. Croft

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002