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Papua Designs: Improving Lives while Creating Art by Maurine Shimlock

“All the girls”, including (from left), Maurine Shimlock (author), Florida (head designer), Maria Kuhn (Papua Design’s founder), two of the ladies

Papua Designs

Florida takes my hand and guides the ink-saturated lino-block I’m holding to a blank piece of paper.  In just a few seconds we release the block and the outline of a jellyfish with exceedingly long tentacles appears.  The jellyfish is a new pattern at Papua Designs in Sorong where local women work together producing art based on traditional motifs.

Florida, the chief designer, showing her abstract painting

We’re here because of an article Maria Kuhn published in May, 2018, on the Bird’s Head Seascape Website when she launched this “Women’s Empowerment Program through Art” ( Depicting marine life, abstract patterns and every day objects in sophisticated ways, which are somewhat reminiscent of aboriginal paintings, the artists at Papua Designs have blurred the division between handicrafts and art.

One of Papua Design’s ladies demonstrating the block printing technique

Block printing sample

Usually extremely shy, these women do not hide their joy while we watch them create future designs. Sharing tools, supplies, and stories about their daily lives, they have become a small, like-minded community. In a radical departure from traditional female roles in Papuan society, these women are learning how to run an economically sustainable business based on creativity.

A selection of Papua Design art including pillow cases adn shopping bags

In the workshop’s entryway Burt and I browse the display of finished art.  We want one of everything, but finally settle on a pillow case printed with hornbills, a bag with multiple fish schooling across the front and an amazing silk scarf with dolphins dancing along the border. Back in the chilly Pacific Northwest I proudly wear my new scarf because it’s beautiful, and also because it reminds me of these warm-hearted, trailblazing Sorong women making art and history in the Bird’s Head.

Ink roller, block with nautilus design, examples of printing

Please visit Papua Designs the next time you are in Sorong. The shop contains some of the finest local artwork in the region.  If you are shopping for souvenirs this is the place.  The women work every afternoon, but call to confirm.

Papua Designs, Jl. Punchak Arfak, no. 8, rt/Rw 02/01 Klabala, Sorong 98413.  Telephone + 62 813 38756048




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