Ghost Net & Pandanus Earrings (9.5x4.5cm) by Bernadette Watt
About Bernadette Watt
Bernadette was born in Mount Isa, and her island home is Mornington Island, (Baralkis). She moved to Groote Eylandt with her family when she was 7 years old. Bernadette learnt from her brothers how to paint and the stories behind the paintings.
“I would watch how they did paintings of the Wurlywin Man, Brolga Lady, rats and squid. I still paint some of those stories now. Because of my dad Arnold Watt, he was great artist. I just want to be like my dad. I have three children, one niece, one nephew, and a grandson. And I love my family.
When I first moved to Groote Eylandt with my mum, my dad Eric Amagula, my step father, he raised me up to be the person that I want to be. How to be strong and believe in myself.”
Bernadette paints, makes jewellery, plant dyes, screen prints. She enjoys doing everything with all the women.
“We go out to Umbakumba community on the other side of the Eylandt, to Malkala (an outstation) and fly to Milyakburra on Bickerton Island to dye with other women. Sometimes we visit aged care too. The old ladies there like to do dyeing. Dyeing is good fun. It makes the women come together and chat while we dye. They really enjoy doing it.
We go out and collect old steel, dig out plant roots for the yellow dye and collect other leaves to make the black colour. We then come back to the Arts Centre, crunch up the leaves and wrap the fabric tightly around bits of steel. We then boil up two billies, one with the yellow dye and another for black. When they have been in the dye long enough we wash them out and hang them to dry outside community.
I love living here in Angurugu. It’s a good place with friendly people you can look up to. It’s a nice place. My children grew up on Milyakburra, a community on Bikkerton Island just off the coast of Groote Eylandt. There are lots of lovely fishing spots around Groote Eylandt and Bikkerton Island. I also love working at the Arts Centre here, doing dying and screen printing.
My artwork with my Auntie Annabell Amagula was nominated for a 2018 Telstra Art Award. We enjoyed making this film and it was very hard work for both of us. But we enjoyed it and we are so proud of what we have done, working with the two communities and Naina Sen and Aly de Groot. And we are both proud of what we have done together.”
About Ghost Nets
A ghost net is a plastic fishing net lost or discarded at sea from a fishing boat that continues to drift and ‘fish’ on its own entrapping and killing marine life. In many Northern Australian communities tonnes of ghost nets – the majority from South East Asia – wash up on beaches, causing pollution, damaging reefs and killing wildlife. The name has evolved from the net’s ‘ghostly’ ability to fish by itself.
Ghost net weaving on Groote Eylandt has developed since a seeding project initiated by Ghost Nets Australia where contemporary fibre artists Aly de Groot and Cecile Williams worked with the rangers, school and weavers to experiment and explore with creative ways to utilise this environmental threat. Ghost net weaving has since been incorporated into the creation of baskets, jewellery and sculptures by Anindilyakwa women in continuous changing ways.
About Anindilyakwa Arts Centre
“The Land Council started by people coming together to think and talk for the future. They made the art centre in 2005 for all Anindilyakwa people.
Some people were already making art and selling it to Balanda (non-Indigenous people) on the Eylandt. Spears, Woomera, didgeridoo, paintings and baskets.
Now we sell the art to the art centre first, they pay us and sell it on.
The art centre can sell it anywhere, like when we go out to Darwin for the art fair. People love what we’re doing, the bush dye and jewellery.
Balanda (non-Indigenous people) when they buy art straight from our art centre, it’s better. We get good money to build the art centre for the future.
The art centre is for people to come and learn, we learn (teach) new people from the community to make art the old ways.
The art centre is good for community, not everyone is an artist or interested in learning the old ways. It’s important that we teach them so they can make baskets and dilly bags too. The old people left us this for the future.”
- Annabel Amagula, Senior Anindilyakwa Artist
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