Durrmu Arts Tours the USA

For those of you who haven't been following us on Instagram, you might not know that Regina, Henry and Leaya Wilson have been lucky enough to travel to the USA! As well as an exciting adventure, this trip is also an important professional opportunity for our friends: one that places learning and cultural exchange at the centre.  

With amazing support from the Australian Embassy, this trip coincides with 3 wonderful exhibitions - all featuring the work of our fantastic Peppi artists. A special mention needs to go to Regina, who has also been invited to exhibit a solo exhibition at Second Street Gallery in Charlottesville. Congratulations, Regina! 

Regina, Henry and Leaya's first stop is Charlottesville, Virginia. Here, 'NGUNGUNI' at Kluge-Ruhe (May 24 - Sep 19) is an exhibition of paintings on eucalyptus bark from the West Daly region in northern Australia. Importantly, this is the very first time that these pieces have left the Kluge-Ruhe collection. 

Following this is Regina's solo exhibition at Second Street Gallery, 'NGERRINGKRRETY: ONE VOICE, MANY STORIES - REGINA PILAWUK WILSON' (May 25 - July 27). This exhibition features Regina's paintings on canvas and paper, as well as fiber works and prints.

Next, our friends will make their way to Washington DC to attend 'MARKING THE INFINITE' at the Phillips Collection, Washington DC (2 June - Sep 9). This exhibition spotlights nine leading Aboriginal Australian women artists: Nonggirrnga Marawili, Wintjiya Napaltjarri, Yukultji Napangati, Angelina Pwerle, Lena Yarinkura, Gulumbu Yunupingu, Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, Carlene West, and Regina Pilawuk Wilson. Hurrah! 

More updates are to come. For now, see some highlights of their trip so far! 

 Henry, Regina and Leaya Wilson are 15,982 km from Peppi visiting the White House. Having a ball!

Henry, Regina and Leaya Wilson are 15,982 km from Peppi visiting the White House. Having a ball!

 Regina was the humble guest of honour at the AustralianEmbassy and spoke to the audience in her native language about working together to support all the ladies and artists in Australia and internationally. 

Regina was the humble guest of honour at the AustralianEmbassy and spoke to the audience in her native language about working together to support all the ladies and artists in Australia and internationally. 

 Here is Regina delivering her speech in Ngan’gikurunggur at the embassy in Washington DC - an incredible experience. Photo by the team at Kluge-Ruhe Art Museum. 

Here is Regina delivering her speech in Ngan’gikurunggur at the embassy in Washington DC - an incredible experience. Photo by the team at Kluge-Ruhe Art Museum. 

 Behind the scenes of the largest Native Indian Collection at the Smithsonian museum in Maryland. Terry Snowball showing Regina + Leaya the incredible weaving work of the first people's. 

Behind the scenes of the largest Native Indian Collection at the Smithsonian museum in Maryland. Terry Snowball showing Regina + Leaya the incredible weaving work of the first people's. 


Durrmu is pleased to announce a new program starting up at Durrmu Arts.
NIMBI is a digital repository of cultural material and applied art history. We will embark on a program of digitally repatriating old works from institutions across the globe back to the source community of Peppimenarti.
Through existing relationships such as the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection in Virginia USA and new relationships as we go, we will build a huge archive of song, dance, art and community and cultural legacy for the people of the West Daly Region to share and access.
NIMBI is a growing database of historical moments and cultural importance, it will act as a resource for many stakeholders in the community and it will provide a unique and vital source of art history for future artists.
The legacy, language and knowledge of this region will be kept for all to access at Durrmu Arts.
Stay tuned for more information about NIMBI in the coming months.


Durrmu Arts at the TARNANTHI festival Adelaide 2017

Regina Pilawuk Wilson was engaged through Durrmu Arts and The Australian Network for Art & Technology (ANAT) to collaborate on a animation work to be projected on the side of the Target building in Adelaide during the TARNANTHI Festival.
Kate Matthews from ACMI came to Peppimenarti to develop a stop motion animation of weaving for the large scale projection. Using traditional materials and dying procedures, Regina mixed the old with the new and has no hesitation in embracing the process of animation.
Shot by shot and stitch by stitch the video piece came together to produce an amazing short film of colour and movement. The work was launched during the opening weekend of TARNANTHI and the video piece will project on the side of the Target building in Rundle St till late January 2018. 
Stay in touch for the release of the film on our website in the coming months.

2013 - 2015 Cultural Mentor Classes with Peppimenarti Primary School

In 2013 we received funding from the Australia Council Chosen Cultural Apprenticeship Program grant.

For eighteen months Durrmu Arts worked in collaboration with Peppimenarti Primary School, where once a week Regina Pilawuk Wilson would conduct cultural mentor classes with the female students. Her main focus was introducing the girls to the newly learned technique of twinning using pandanus and bush vine to make traditional airbell baskets and fish traps – a technique forgotten in Peppimenarti during the Missionary contact in the 1940’s and only reintroduced in 2013.  As well as twining with bush vine Regina taught the girls the skill of stripping and rolling sand palm into string to make warrgadi (traditional string bags) and walipan (traditional fishing nets), the method of stripping pandanus fronds and using the fibre to make baskets and mats, and then the process of dying the fibres using roots, berries and bark ashes.

Photos by Durrmu Arts, Sophia Constantine & Cassie de Colling.
Regina Wilson: “The benefits are for the kids to learn what we do, cos if we pass away they can take it on for their kids and their grandchildren. It is important for the children to learn about the weaving. Bush vine is really important, our ancestors, long time, use to do fish trap and airbell, we searched for the stitch that was forgotten, it was good to learn the stitch of our grandparents and pass it again.

2014 August - Painting Workshop with Suzette Wearne

With funding we received from Arts NT we had Melbourne artist, Suzette Wearne, visit Durrmu Arts in Peppimenarti.

For three days Wearne conduct a painting workshop at the art centre introducing new mediums and techniques to our artists; watercolours, dry pastels and oil pastels, and different acrylic techniques to what the artists might normally use.

Durrmu Arts and Wearne then spent two days working with the local Peppimenarti Primary School to produce a four-panel mural to be hung at the school, the theme being ‘Peppimenarti’.

2014 July - Phase two 'An Artist Exchange' Skills Development Project

This project acted as a second phase to our ‘An Artist exchange – Skills Development Project’ (see below), which took place in Yilan, May 2013. It allowed the original participants to get a refresher on the weaving technique of twinning with bush vine, whilst also allowing other community members to attend and learn first hand from Lilly & Freda; the Maningrida artists/ teachers.

                                             Lilly Roy - photo by Cassie de Colling

                                          Lilly Roy - photo by Cassie de Colling

The workshop took place over three days:

The morning of the first day consisted of collecting the raw materials that we were to practice with. On the decking of the art centre we stripped and dried the pandanus and started the base of the dilly bag. Four women accompanied us from the Wadeye (Pt. Keats) Women’s Centre, whom we had extended the invite to after they expressed interest in the technique, as the practice had been forgotten there also. In the afternoon the school brought down 10 children who all had a turn at practicing with the pandanus. In the late afternoon, once the heat had set in, we watched our Fi Nginita documentary made by Natureel from our first project with Lilly in 2013.

   Regina Wilson, Latisha Tirak & Freda Wyartja -     photo by Cassie de Colling

Regina Wilson, Latisha Tirak & Freda Wyartja - photo by Cassie de Colling

Day two, we filled up three cars and drove to a spot on the Moyle River called Ningi Ningi (Jungle jungle), collect pinbin (bush vine) and sat by the river learning the weave with bush vine- it turns out to be less confusing using bush vine than pandanus. Again, in the afternoon the school drove a troopy of kids out and together we made our first communal fishnet & dilly bag; the first syaw (fishnet) and airbell (dilly bag) to be made in the Peppimenarti area in 70 years.

  Maree Jabinee with the finished air bell basket -   photo by Cassie de Colling

Maree Jabinee with the finished air bell basket - photo by Cassie de Colling

Day three, we moved upstream on the Moyle River to ‘Cement Block’ and everyone started their own fishnet from scratch, including the school kids who, once again, came in the afternoon. We were also fortunate enough to have Lilly & Freda show us some other of their techniques of dying using different sources of natural colour, and fibre to make string.

In the late afternoon everyone took Freda & Lilly to the waterfall to go fishing.

Throughout the project Cassie de Colling of Natureel films worked with the artists doing interviews and recording detailed footage of the weaving technique for the purpose of producing a ‘How To’ film.

We were also accompanied by Dr. Harriet Fesq (who’s PHD research initiated our first project after unearthing an old photo of an airbell basket in the Daly River region in the 1940’s), who we are currently working with to publish a book on the history of Peppimenarti weaving, and its relationship to the artist’s paintings.

This project was funded by Arts NT – Creative Communities, Australia Council & ANKAAA

2013 May - 'An Artist Exchange' Skills Development Workshop

The long-winded version by Rikki Lovell, Art Centre Manager at the time:

When I first started working at Durrmu Arts in Peppimenarti in September last year, I asked the artists if there were any projects or workshops they might like me to organise for 2013. Their response was a little surprising (I was expecting maybe a print workshop or something along those lines); What the ladies wanted to do was relearn a technique of weaving that had not been passed on from their grandparents, it was used to make the ‘airbell’ used as a fish trap and to carry things –the traditional twinning technique using bush vine.

Harriet Fesq had been doing her PHD on weaving in Peppimenarti, and discovered an old photo from the Northern Territory Library, the only known photo of the ‘air bell’ in this region. Harriet’s studies sparked a renewed interest in the technique.

Regina Wilson has, for a long time, painted ‘syaw’ (fish net), the technique she paints is the twinning style; she remembers it visually but was never taught how to apply it to bush vine because of the missionary contact in the 1940’s.

So, after chatting with ANKAAA an idea was hatched. Chris Durkin (former ANKAAA employee) suggested that we work with Lilly Roy because of her friendship with Regina through the ANKAAA board, and because of Lilly being selected as a Telstra Art Award finalist in 2007 for her traditional fish trap sculpture.

After consulting everyone, and everyone getting very excited at the prospect I then had to put it into action.

My first suggestion to the Peppi artist’s was that we fly to Lilly’s outstation; Yilan in Arnhem Land (130kms NE of Maningrida). Sadly everyone hated the idea of flying. So, a road trip was our next and only option- 875km one-way.

I applied for funding with Australia Council for a Skills & Arts Development grant, and with ANKAAA for the VACS grant, both of which were approved.

Then in mid-May 2013 we hired a troopy and borrowed a trailer from the Peppi School, bundled six female artists; Regina Wilson, Dianne Hodgson, Kathleen Korda, Leaya Smith, Clara Kundu & Maree Jabinee (aged from 17, 35, 60-68), one filmmaker; Cassie de Colling from Natu-Reel Films, and myself in a troopy and started the long trek to Yilan.

Our first day went without a hitch, even managing to leave Peppi on time. We drove from Peppi to Pine Creek, stopping for lunch and fuel, then onto Kakadu only stopping again when we got to Cahills Crossing to wait for the tide to go out and the water level to go down. Which was great, we got to stretch our legs, go for a walk along the East Alligator River and explore Ubirr Rock art site; finally arriving in Gunbalanya, 9 hours since we left home.

In the morning we visited Injalak Arts (my old stomping ground), and received a warm welcome from the Injalak crew, with Liz giving us a lovely tour of the centre, and the Peppi artists being especially interested in their fibre works and the screen-printing.

Then with everyone back in the troopy we head to Maningrida, only 220kms way. It’s beautiful country, so the drive is quite enjoyable despite the road being pretty rough and there being at least a million little rivers crossings.

At Maningrida we visit the Babbarra Designs Womens Centre & the very new and flash Maningrida Arts, where we meet the lovely Lucy Bond and got to see out first bush vine fish trap. It was roughly about this time I got a voice message from Lilly Roy saying that she had had car troubles and was STILL in Darwin (I thought she was already in Yilan!), so I went into a mild state of panic… Still trying to call Lilly but not able to get through, we had to drive to our accommodation at Djinkarr Lodge (20kms outside of town), where we had no phone reception, meaning all efforts to contact Lily were postponed until the morning.

But we had a fantastic night in Djinkarr, the accommodation is wonderful and the view is beautiful, plus Dom, a Djinkarr Ranger, was nice enough to give us 8 delicious mud crabs! So we were happy and content.

Next morning rather than set out for Yilan (130kms/ 3 hour drive away) as planned, we drive back to Maningrida to try and contact Lilly again. Amazingly, as soon as we hit phone reception Lily calls to tell me she caught a bus from Katherine to Darwin (she was actually in Katherine, not Darwin) that morning and had booked a flight from Darwin to Maningrida, and would arrive in Maningrida at 3pm that afternoon- what an amazing woman! So we wait in Maningrida till 3pm to pick her up, everyone does a little shopping.

I’m a little concerned that we’re leaving so late, but everyone says the road is pretty good so we’ll be fine.

We pull into the airport to wait for Lily. It’s a lovely reunion, with a few introductions, and then we’re all back in the car and heading for Yilan (finally).

The one thing people warned us of, when we mentioned where we were going was to watch out for the Blythe River. It’s ‘got a few deep spots, and flows pretty strong’, so instantly everyone’s fairly tense. The ladies hate river crossings as it is, so we were all pretty pumped up when we get there. Fortunately there was a group of men on the other side fishing and suggested we keep to the left; which we did and made it to the other side, safe and sound- except for my hearing from all the screaming coming from the back of the car telling which way to go- ‘speed up’, ‘slow down’, ‘watch out!’. It was a thrill and full of laughter when we made it…Upon reflection, it really wasn’t that bad. No one even battered an eyelid on the way home.

So, with our last hurdle conquered we’re on the home stretch for Yilan- the only warning was from one of the rangers saying the road might be a little sandy… We make it to Jimarrdi outstation, the last one before Yilan, and stop to say hello to Bonnie Roy (Lily’s sister), who is also going to be working with us too. Its getting close to sunset so we push on to Yilan, which is ‘not too far’ away. It turns out there’s a massive billabong/ swap between the two stations, but there’s a pretty clear track around it. There are a few muddy spots, and two deep-water crossings, but the troopy & Terry get through no worries. We’re pretty much out of the swamp, I can see the hard ground, just one more muddy spot to go. It doesn’t even look bad ‘just follow the tracks’. Next thing I know we’re not moving at all. Not forwards, not backwards. We’re just sitting there, mud up to both diffs, three tyres spinning with absolutely zero traction.

“Righto, everyone out of the car.”

We all work like crazy people trying to get us out (everyone that is, but the film maker, who is trying her best to avoid the mud and film it all, bless!) digging the black mud out from under the car, chopping trees down for leverage (Lilly was truly an amazing woman to watch. She’s 61, and put me to shame with her ability of swinging an axe!) We tried for 5 solid hours until we gave up with exhaustion. It was 11pm by then. So it was decided we’d get some sleep and get help in the morning. Lilly and I were sitting on the roof of the troopy with one bar of phone reception and we sent out a few messages to various people asking them to come help us in the morning, so we weren’t too worried, help was on its way. Just as a ‘social’ call we decided to give Chris Durkin call, seeing how this was pretty much his fault we were in this mess in the first place!  Chris is currently in Perth. After having a cheeky chat with him we all tried to settle down for the night, which was easier said than done- the women refused to sleep in tents because of buffalo! Which meant everyone wanted to sleep in the car; it was a really hot night, and THICK with mosquitoes (the poor film maker had juicy Melbourne white skin, so consequently had a pretty hard time with it). So I had to empty out the car, and trailer to try and make enough room for everyone to sleep (I happily set up & laid down in a tent- buffalo or no buffalo, I was too tired to care).

Next thing I know Kathleen comes bounding out of the troopy- topless, yelling ‘There’s a car coming!’. I’m like ‘don’t be crazy Kathleen, who’s silly enough to drive out here at midnight?”. Then sure enough we see headlights on the horizon! Damn, Kathleen was right.

Then there’s a made rush from everyone trying to find where they left their muddy clothes! People end up with other peoples tops, I ended up with a completely new outfit because I couldn’t see my mud camouflaged clothes against the mud which I threw them.

The car gets closer, and we’re all wondering who it could be…

Out jumps Ben & Roy from Bula’Bula Arts in Ramingining! How on earth?? Turns out after we called Chris in Perth, he called, & woke up, Ben in Ramingining telling him he had to come help us. So he then went and woke up Roy, and they drove the hour and a half to come to our rescue.

Roy definitely seemed like he may have been in a bog or two before! He had a meticulous method, and it worked. Pure genius! Still, it was another 4 hours of sweating, digging, chopping and mosquitoes before we were on hard ground; even then we had to get the trailer out and through by using the towrope. Only then could we continue on to Yilan (which turned out to be not even 2kms from where we were!), and poor Ben & Roy could finally go home and go back to sleep.

So the remained of the day, after we set up camp and finally got to bed at maybe 430am, was a restful one. A walk along the beautiful Yilan beach with Bonnie & Lily, collecting shells, longbum and mud crabs: our freshwater people getting to embrace the saltwater

Then we finally got down to business. We went out and collected bush vine (trophies scandens & flagellaria indica), as well as some sedge grass (cyperus eragrostis) in monsoonal forest along the Blythe River. Then back to camp where we officially started the workshop. To begin with, Lilly & Bonnie started to teach the Peppi artists the twinning technique using some pre-prepared pandanus which we had brought with us. Regina Wilson was the first to master it, then Clara Kundu really got the hang of it. It was slightly more difficult than we had anticipated. Bonnie then showed us how to use the sedge grass, which can be stripped, rolled and twinned and is lovely and soft. We have this grass in Peppi, but is has never been used to weave with. In turn the Peppi artists showed the Roy sisters their techniques of weaving with the pandanus as well as plant sources to dye it with (there were some similarities, but also a lot of difference in plants used for dying).

Then the introduction to the bush vine- or as its called in Peppi, pinbin. It’s a much harder fibre to work with than what everyone was use to, and is going to take a little more practice (had we not got bogged and lost a day and a half of workshop time, more may have been accomplished). Although next time I think we’ll fly Bonnie & Lily to Peppimenarti and save ourselves the drive!

Here is the documentary Cassie de Colling from Natu-reel films put together for us. The main purpose for it is as teaching tool for anyone else in Peppi who might like to learn, but also for the Cultural Mentor classes which Regina teaches at Peppimenarti School.