Senior Artist / Master Weaver
In the unhurried of Langarra homeland, Rarru gathers materials and processes them into artworks, imbued with their ancestral origins and Rarru’s drive to create new distinct forms.
Margaret Rarru was born in Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island). Today she lives on her mother’s country of Langarra (Howard Island) and at Yurrwi (Milingimbi Island) both off the coast of Arnhem Land.
Rarru is a senior artist and master weaver at Milingimbi Art and Culture and a respected elder amongst the community. Rarru speaks little english, however she engages with the Balanda (European) world through her art practice and has become well known for her ‘Madonna Bra’ bathi (baskets) and wearable pieces as well as her minimalist forms Mindirr Mol (Black dilly bag’s).
Whilst the technique of immersion dyeing has been widely practiced in Arnhem Land since the arrival of missionaries the recipe for creating black dye from local plants was discovered by Rarru. Yolŋu weavers respect Rarru as the owner of Mol (black) and whilst they may know the recipe and use small amounts of mol in their work the singular use of mol is reserved for Rarru and those who she gives permission.
As a young girl Rarru showed an aptitude for weaving and was thus taught the cultural significance and techniques for making ceremonial and functional objects. She has developed her craft throughout her life and has contributed greatly to the appreciation of fibre as a contemporary art form.
Rarru’s artwork has been acquired by many galleries and museums including Queensland Art Gallery and Museum of Art and features prominently in the National Gallery of Victoria Collection.
Rarru’s art practice also includes painting with ochre on bark and ceremonial poles. In 2007 Rarru won the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award bark painting category, for her work Ŋarra Body Paint Design a subtle piece of vertical triangles and circular motifs that represent Rarru’s homeland of Garriyak, sacred waterholes and the journey of the Dhan’kawu sisters.