“Papua Designs” Launches
by Maria Kuhn
Papua Designs is a “Women’s Empowerment Program through Art”. It’s unique approach enables local women to get together in a trusted and safe environment where they can explore their creativity. The art collection consists of hand painted and block printed contemporary textiles, created by talented local women, the artists of Papua Designs. The textiles incorporate the women’s own Papuan motifs. After printing, the women add hand painted touches for stunning final results. The textiles are then made into a myriad of items. Sarongs, scarfs, hand bags, pillows and wall art objects are just the beginning. Their mantra is “Come visit our Art Centre in Sorong, print with us, paint with us and laugh with us!
The goal of this project is to bring significant and sustainable improvement to the local Papuan women by training and empowering them economically. The program is sponsored and developed by Anak Sehat Persada (ASP), formerly Papuan Children’s Health Foundation, along with the tireless work of Maria Kuhn. Maria Kuhn worked with an aboriginal art centre in Northern Territory, Australia before moving to West Papua (Sorong) where she had first travelled and lived some 20 years before. Fresh with the art community’s experience, Maria saw the potential of creating an Art Centre in Sorong, because of the uniqueness of this area, people and culture. Furthermore the tourist market had substantially developed in the last years to become a perfect platform to venture into this exciting project.
Until recently most Papuans lived a substance-based lifestyle. Increases in communication, access, and a growing tourism economy in the region is now bringing many changes to the lives of the locals, especially the women. Lino- block printing allows the participants to express and share their stories, while guided discussions during working sessions touch the lives of women, their culture, health, financial situations and daily challenges faced by home and family. The Art Center combines technology and knowledge in a unique and practical way. As a result the center is experiencing a capability amongst the women to learn efficiently, while implementing supportive programs and interactive training sessions. Out of their workshop, Maria & The Ladies are creating magic through their colors and patterns, during which the cheerful group can be found laughing, discussing, sharing and living life out loud! This is somewhat revolutionary for the women. Here the women can come and recharge, get advice, learn new skills in English, business, financial management, which enables them to improve their current situations.
Maria states that the center chose local women, living nearby the centre, who have all shown talent for colours, an eye for balance, and ability of drawing motifs from memory. Currently the Art Center is looking for women from Moi, the tribe original from Sorong, because of the motifs they are allowed to use. Originally there were 4 women active every workday, in the afternoons only, which enables them, the artists, to look after their family and continue with their micro businesses. Florida Reba, the first artist chosen comes from Serui, a small island near Biak (Cenderawasih Bay). She is a talented artist looking after a big family. Her “day job” is catering, specifically baking cakes! Also from Serui is Petrosina Moay. Letfina Duwit, from Ayamaru (in the central western part of the Bird’s Head) is a single mother, sometimes arriving after walking long distance to her garden to get vegetables and fruits which she sells by night at the market, after printing and painting at the center. Mince Chlumbless, also from Ayamaru, completes the original four. Maria Paa, from Moi, is the newest member of the group.