Before my Aunty passed away she told me to follow her footsteps. When I do designs at Bábbarra, I am always thinking of her.
Raylene Bonson, artist at Bábbarra
Originally established as a women’s refuge, Bábbarra Women’s Centre was founded in 1987 through the leadership of Helen Williams and Helen Bond-Sharp. We have always advocated for better learning and economic opportunities for women, to create higher outcomes for Indigenous women and their families.
Our textile business, Babbarra Designs, is one of the oldest continuously operating Indigenous textile enterprises in Australia. The establishment of Bábbarra Designs occurred alongside the rise to international fame of the artists of Maningrida Arts & Culture. Many of Bábbarra’s leading artists – Susan Marawarr, Jennifer Wurrkidj, Deborah Wurrkidj and Helen Lanyinwanga – attribute their artistic education to the world-renowned artists in their families, including some of Australia’s finest bark painters: James Iyuna, Mary Marabamba and Lena Kuriniya.
During the 1990s, we began working in etching, lithography and screen-printing through a series of workshops and projects run jointly with Maningrida Arts & Culture. We steadily built an archive of screens, and we acquired a printing press at Maningrida Arts and Culture so we could work in this medium onsite, consolidating our printmaking skills. A number of us acquired formal qualifications in textile art, and we all continue to access opportunities to expand and share our knowledge. In developing our designs we have often collaborated with other leading printmakers, namely Bobbie Ruben.
The artwork of our leading artists is exhibited nationally and internationally, and some of us have toured widely. Susan Marawarr, for example, has given a printmaking demonstration at the prestigious Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection at the University of Virginia, and our textiles have been exhibited in China, Mexico and the USA. Bábbarra Designs textiles are in the collections of major institutions across Australia, including the National Gallery of Australia.