Garma, 2009

From August 6 – 10, members of Bula’bula Arts attended the Garma Festival of Yolngu culture.  ANKAAA (the Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists Inc.) funded three Bula’bula artists and the curator to attend the annual celebration of Yolngu culture, held in the forest at Gulkula, Northeast Arnhem Land (near Nhulunbuy).  The three artists who attended the festival were ANKAAA board-member Richard Birrinbirrin, Peter Minygululu and Shirley Banalanydju.

A productive and enjoyable four days were spent camping amongst fellow artists and attending the following events:
* Garma Academic Key Forum, this year titled ‘Creative Industries’.
* the ANKAAA Arnhem Regional Meeting, where the group met with other local Art Centres and funding bodies to discuss important issues facing the individual art centres today.
* Yothu Yindu Foundation Printmaking Workshop.  Peter and Shirley each created a linocut print at the festival, with the possible opportunity of the foundation selecting their artwork for editioning.
* Visit to Buku Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre, in Yirrkala.
* Evening Bungul and entertainment.

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Ramingining Printworkshop at Bula'bula Arts 1991
© Bula'bula Arts

 The Ramingining Print Workshop commenced in 1984 under the tutorship of Moree Aboriginal Artist, Lawrence Leslie. It concentrated on the production of Central Arnhem Land designs as “art to wear” in the form of tee-shirts and fabric. Aboriginal artists Fiona Foley and Joe Hurst also made the sojourn to Ramingining to share their expertise with local printers.

Initially operating under a bough shade in the grounds of the Ramingining School, conditions were very poor. Screens were made from off-cuts from building materials and artists painted their designs directly onto the mesh. When the new Art Centre for Ramingining was designed in 1988, one third of the building was devoted to a dedicated printing space. This space included two long printing tables for fabric, a 4 layer carousal for tee-shirts and a drying rack for prints on paper. A darkroom, with copy camera, was used to transfer designs either directly from bark paintings or from ruby-lith cut out designs.

Bula'bula Arts Tee-shirt, based on a painting of Garrtjambal the Creator Kangaroo by Johnny Liwangu.
The screens for the four colour print were hand cut from ruby-lith by visiting artist Pam Debenham in 1990. These screens were also used to print posters for Bula'bula Arts by the Print Workshop
© Bula'bula Arts 2004


The Print Workshop provided younger artists and youths with the means for creative expression. In order to make paintings, artists have to have reached a certain ritual maturity, which is generally attained at around 25 years of age. The Print Workshop afforded those too young to paint an opportunity for artistic practice that was not necessarily related to the depiction of traditional totemic designs. Tee-shirts for local bands, local football teams, the church and a design commission from ATSIC proved very popular within the community.

The introduction of this new and modern medium also saw the cautious adaptation of clan designs which were vetted by the regional community. As many of the designs originated from ceremonies and images painted on the body, new designs created by local artists were circulated throughout the environs of Ramingining for a couple of years before they were sold in the market place. This ensured that all clan members and custodians of the designs were aware of their adaptive reproduction and could re-call any designs deemed too sensitive for the market.

In 1992 there was an experimental program which added print-making and lithography to the Print Workshop. Run by Master Printer Theo Tremblay, artists were introduced to the art of lithography and were fascinated by the process. A number of limited edition prints were produced during this time including those by George Milpurrurru, David Malangi, Charlie Djurritjini and Andrew Marrgululu.

In 2007, Murri artist and print-maker, Noel Doyle, came to Ramingining and re-opened the Print Worshop, located underneath Bula'bula Arts centre. Screen-printed fabric was the main production with Bobby Bunungurr and Frances Rrikili as the regular designers and printers during the workshop, which ran until 2008. 

Bula’bula Arts will continue the Print Workshop again in the near future.

Buyu: Weaving, screenprint c.1991. Designed and printed by the
Printworkshop, this image was produced on posters, t-shirts and windcheaters.
When women weavers travelled to exhibitions, or to give weaving workshops, they would wear the printed clothing and the posters were used to advertise the events.
© Bula'bula Arts 2004


In 1990 and 1991 DEET (Department of Education and Employment Training) funded a number of Batik Workshops in Ramingining. Facilitated by Batik Instructor, Kathy Barnes, the workshops were very well attended. The introduction of this art form was keenly embraced by a number of women, as well as a number of female Post Primary Students from Ramingining School. With surprising ease, the class soon mastered the craft of wax layers to create depth of colour and design. Produced mainly in earth tones, the bold designs soon became a local fashion statement. The women, and especially the school girls, wore their tee-shirts with a great sense of pride.

A component of the course covered Occupational Health & Safety, essential when using Napthol dyes, and the students were also able to learn about some of the hazards of working with introduced media. Run on the verandah of the Ramingining Library, electric frypans were used to melt the wax, while fires burned under flour drums for the washing of the wax. Although these workshops were only short lived, they were of great benefit, and delight, to the women who attended.


 Goose Egg Hunt screen print design by George Milpurrurru
© Bula'bula Arts 2004