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Deaconess Winifred Hilliard and the cultural brokerage of the Ernabella craft room. Deaconess Winifred Hilliard arrived at the Presbyterian Ernabella mission craft room in far north-west South Australia in to work as a qualified missionary.
She was The art history of Ernabella Pukatja is arguably the last neglected narrative of first-generation, postcontact Indigenous art-making among Australian Western Desert peoples. The history of Papunya Tula artists, a painting movement begun in by men in association with a white male cultural-broker, has become ubiquitous shorthand for Western Desert art. Pels and Salemink query the distinction made between academic anthropologists and other ethnographic practitioners under colonial rule.
They note the importance of the practical relationships between observed and observers and their transformations by the representations of ethnography. Hilliard was not a professional anthropologist but — at least initially — a professional missionary.
In publishing a book about the missionised subjects of her daily work, she was following in a long tradition of missionaries who are also ethnographers and writers. She later published many essays and gave public lectures about the Ernabella craft room, all of which are imbued with her ethnographic voice and her experience over decades of immersion in local Indigenous life of understanding and speaking Pitjantjatjara fluently.
These years were relieved by the introduction of government subsidies for Aboriginal art and craft production and marketing. By the s, the Ernabella art centre business, in addition to the cultural and social roles it played, was at last flourishing. I knew Winifred Hilliard during this period of her life: fromwhen I started anthropological fieldwork near Ernabella, until her death in Most non-Aboriginal staff come and go so regularly. By the time of her last visit to Ernabella for the 60th anniversary of the art centre inthose former craft girls sat at her feet, wanting their photo taken with her.
Their shared life experiences mean that Hilliard represented their pasts too, a link to dead mothers, sisters, aunties. Other researchers had been working with them on their art and its history. A mission station must have an industry, to provide work and help to finance the cost of caring for the natives. The year history of Ernabella mission is a distinct one. During the preparations for handover of governance to A n angu themselves, the mission stated its five interlinked goals as spiritual, economic, educational, social and political.
Ernabella was already established as a sheep station when purchased by the church in Ernabella is, comparatively, in the vastness of central Australia, geographically close both to Hermannsburg, the first mission in central Australia, which was set up by the Lutherans inand to the United Aborigines Mission at Warburton established in Dr Charles Duguid — Adelaide surgeon, Ernabella mission advocate and policymaker — framed the Ernabella mission project within a more liberal approach to the Christian conversion of Aboriginal people and to their education than any of these missions.
There were no dormitories at Ernabella and schoolchildren were taught in the Pitjantjatjara language. The mission opened a school in Love and anthropologists — the Berndts, Basedow, Spencer and Single Hermannsburg male looking for girl. Her writing did not attempt new ethnographic theory but extolled to the reader the undisputed humanity of the Pitjantjatjara by detailing multiple aspects of their lives. The book boasted an ambivalent introduction by Ted Strehlow, the son of the Hermannsburg Lutheran missionaries.
Strehlow was intent on recording the secret ceremonies of men and collecting their ritual paraphernalia. Aram Yengoyan, who had carried out research near Ernabella, reviewed the book for American Anthropologist. His review Single Hermannsburg male looking for girl generally favourable and praised her impartial of the mission, although he criticised her incomplete of male initiation, knowledge she would have been excluded from.
Figure 1: from an Ernabella mission handcraft leaflet c. Text and illustrations attributed to Winifred Hilliard. It is this chapter that lays the foundation for her own future s of the craft room — and virtually all others that follow. She had already sketched this narrative in various brochures she prepared to accompany the craft room price lists. Her tiny drawings of A n angu carrying out work embellish early examples. A n angu informants whom she acknowledges at the front of her book are Gordon Inkatji, Watulya Baker and Nganintja, three individuals whom the mission regarded as great successes and role models for other A n angu.
Hilliard uses their s and that of other A n angu to evoke Pitjantjatjara life before the mission. She did not, by and large, use their precontact lives to legitimise the mission project. Although she was a little critical of the mission, the book is holier than thou in tone. The people who came into the mission travelled mainly from this reserve area. Her aim was to emphasise that the Pitjantjatjara were not just human but good and morally upright, worthy of support.
They do not, she writes, lend their wives, nor eat each other. One has the sense that she was didactic to forestall criticism and ignorant questions about people for whom she had immense affection and respect. This tendency increased in her writing as the years passed.
She also needed to market the things that the craft room workers produced and, as I will discuss below, much of her writing is about educating that market not merely for monetary gain but garnering appreciation for, and Single Hermannsburg male looking for girl of, firstly the mission and latterly the Aboriginal craft women. The story of the craft room that Hilliard relates in her book is a tightly nested narrative that recurs again and again.
It outlived her tenure and appears long afterwards in the s of subsequent art advisers, and in catalogue essays. Indeed, it requires effort to write anything about Ernabella that does not borrow from it. Its authority is augmented by the fact that the Ernabella mission refused most requests from professional anthropologists to conduct research at Ernabella. The narrative unfolds by withholding as much as it gives way. Realising that spinning was a native skill, the mission arranged for Mrs M. Bennett of Kalgoorlie to visit Ernabella in for six weeks and teach four older women to adjust the tension of the fibre in order to successfully spin white wool, that novelty animal hair.
Mrs Bennett also taught four younger women to weave wool on a four-shaft loom. Hilliard mentions the names of all these women — Nguringka, Nyirpiwa, Kukika and Dolly — indicative of how The People in Between is so reliant on insider knowledge. It is from this date,that the craft room is born in future s, though Hilliard later corrects its actual start to January A new schoolteacher, Miss Baird later another Mrs M. Bennettarrived, who had knowledge of weaving and taught more young women this skill. The cane and raffia basketry was not successful.
There was moccasin making with introduced kangaroo skins stitched and painted by the craft women, and Gobelin tapestry weaving that was unpopular with the majority of craft girls. It was the men who were responsible for shearing the sheep and sorting and baling the wool before it was sent on the mission truck to the rail head miles away at Finke. In an earlier chapter of The People in Between describing the Ernabella school, Hilliard introduced the origins of the walka. It is these that Hilliard was to broker and promote. She traced the walka back to sand-drawing practices; although, at the end of her life, Hilliard doubted this as an explanation for them.
In the anthropological stereotype of Aboriginal women lacking ritual power, it is young women, in s of precontact life, who are construed as especially powerless. These young women, if thought of as art producers, were the antithesis of the Papunya Tula men, whose ground paintings and ceremonial des are continually invoked as the basis of their mark making on canvas. In her writing, Hilliard never mentions women painting up their bodies for ceremony, although she certainly saw and participated in these events.
As I have argued elsewhere, Hilliard underestimated the spiritual importance it had for its makers because they did not Single Hermannsburg male looking for girl of it. At the end ofthe Indonesian technique of batik was taught to the Ernabella craft workers by another teacher — a young American man named Leo Brereton. Radically, he was not a member of the Church — a harbinger of a new era at Ernabella.
The application letter to fund his visit, ed by all the leading craft women — Patjiparan, Nyukana, Tjikalyi, Yipati, Tjuwilya and Tjunkaya — explained that they aimed to produce dress lengths for the tourist trade, for export and for Australian consumption. Subsequently, Hilliard helped the women save from their wages to enable three young women — Jillian Rupert, Nyukana Baker and Yipati Kuyata — to visit the batik research institute in Yogyakarta for three weeks into learn directly from Indonesian batik masters.
On their return, they taught their new knowledge to other craft room workers. Another batik teacher, Vivianne Bertelson, visited Ernabella later in and taught wax recipes and more dyeing and waxing techniques. By now, some of the daughters of the original craft girls were employed in the craft room too, having worked there after school.
There were more trips by Hilliard accompanying various batik artists — especially Nyukana Baker and Yipati Kuyata — to Africa and Japan. However, she was also careful, both in her book and in her later writing, to report how the craft girls owned the techniques that they learnt and wanted to pass them on to children. Watching and imitating was, and is, the way in which A n angu learnt.
Becoming fluent in new media gave them freedom to experiment and influenced the way that they worked in other media. In a craft room report written in addressed to the Board of Missions, Hilliard wrote:. This is carried over into the work in the craft room or in any other sphere of employment where it is essential to stress that a task well done is an act of worship. The leading craft girls were declared Christians.
From the start of the craft room until the mids, the mainstay was woollen work. The craft workers learnt to hand spin, scour, dye and weave the sheep wool. Their weaving appears mimetic of European weaving to non-Aboriginal audiences. I learnt during my own research from some of the weavers how at least in retrospect miraculously novel and all-consuming it was for them as they learnt to count with coloured thre to create multicoloured, patterned textiles.
Enabled by Hilliard and the Mission Board, various young craft women went to improve their weaving techniques at the Sturt workshops in Mittagong with courses that lasted up to 20 weeks. It was on her furloughs, leave away from the mission, that Hilliard sought out new media and teachers, so the Sturt workshops had a long relationship with the Ernabella craft room throughout the s and into the early s.Single Hermannsburg male looking for girl
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