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“Papua Designs” Launches by Maria Kuhn

“Papua Designs” Launches

by Maria Kuhn

Hornbills are a common regional bird and a popular motif

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!

Ladies at work

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.

4 Ladies – 8 Hands

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.

Hand painting to add detail to the printed design.

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.

Finished products

Maria relates that the ladies have expressed that the centre is becoming a place of safety, recharging and furthermore getting advice and support. As Maria talks more with the ladies and as they get to know each other, she can see the hardships these women are dealing with and admires their strength.  Thanks to the Direct Aid Program of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, the center has been able to buy equipment that enables them to train via computer and tv screen on subjects of interest, i.e., healthier cooking, social media marketing, sewing, etc. They have discussions about financial management and business plans and have started their very own saving account for rainy days.  Thankfully the DAP grant has enabled the center to pay for English and sewing lessons.  The funding will only last another six months, however!  Our aim, Maria says, is to become sustainable and even viable.

Showing off their work and laughing about life!

So go to the shop and get to know Maria & The Ladies.  While you are there tell them your story and listen to theirs.  Print with them, paint with them, laugh with them.  Buy something!  A lot of somethings and know you are not only helping 4 ladies you are empowering a culture while helping preserve Raja and the BHS.  Talking about a win-win scenario!

Dolphin Tails

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