Woven of Light our threads like stars constellations make.
Inspired by the journey of Purnululu, Star Portal of the Pleaides, the Seven Sisters, the ancient Land and the women born of this land, and all women across the globe who continue to weave the Basket of Life in all its mystery.
The Brolga takes message to the skies as the Earth Treasure Vase is placed in the womb of the cave.
While painting Purnululu Dreaming a dillybag (traditional Aboriginal string bag or basket made of the fibre of the Pandanus plant or bush grasses) wove its story through the presence of a woman long passed from this world.
In 2006 my father gifted me with a dillybag that had been purchased by his father in 1983 and kept in the family since my grandfather's passing more than 20 years ago. This only dillybag in my possession had held joy of place hanging on the wall in the living room for 11 years.
There it remained until I began painting Purnululu Dreaming...inspired by a journey into the lands of Boornooolooloo, Western Australia, where, accompanied by a circle of Indigenous women elders, we placed an Earth Treasure Vase for healing of all Lands, Peoples and Nature.
One day I was compelled to move the dillybag from its long-held place hanging on the wall, into my studio - and as I began to paint the Purnululu Bungle Bungle formations with the ‘basket’ holding them, like a nest with eggs - I began to see the beehive formations themselves like upturned dillybag baskets.
Working on the ‘basket of stars’ woven like threads, I found myself increasingly looking to the dillybag as an energetic guide.
The dillybag seemed suddenly so full of Light.
Toward completion of the painting, out of my wardrobe fell, curiously, the handwritten tag that had been tucked into the dillybag since its purchase by my grandfather over 34 years ago.
Reading the name of the woman who had made the basket, written in pencil - Jeannie Balguju - and her tribal group Rembarrnga, it dawned on me that the dillybag had its origin in the Arnhem Land region - ancestral country of two of the women who had accompanied us on our journey through Purnululu – beloved Jawoyn elder Margaret Katherine (whose passing in late 2018 was of great loss to so many) and Miliwanga Wurrben – both of whom had gifted me a skin name as their daughter.
And so I sent a message to Miliwanga, wondering, though it had been made so long ago, whether she might know any further story of the dillybag and its origin.
Within minutes Miliwanga rang back to share that the basket had been made by none other than her birth mother.
Jeannie Balguju had passed many years ago, and would have been over 100 years if she were now living, but Miliwanga shared that in her time she had been a highly respected ceremonial dillybag and basket weaver, healer and teacher.
We laughed and cried with awe at the gift of this connection - Miliwanga’s mother’s basket, across time, place and culture, holding us both in the magic of her weaving.
Miliwanga asked if I could send her a photo of the dillybag, and the tag that went with it, with her mother’s name written from so long ago, and spoke that it was a reclaiming and remembering of her mother to see her mother’s name written and to know our family had cared for, respected and loved her mother’s basket through over three decades.
And now, through her dillybag basket, Jeannie Balguju had woven and gifted herself further - into the painting Purnululu Dreaming - the country upon which her daughter and I only weeks prior had met for the first time, journeying together from opposite sides of the continent.
Reaching through both of us, her spirit enduring through all Time.
(Original Painting - Acrylic on canvas - 60cm x 60cm. 2017)
Artwork / images are copyrighted © Zenta Zebergs, zentaimprints
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