Ethical and Meaningful Collaboration with Indigenous Artists

Yarn Partner Artist Luke Mallie (Kuku Yalanji and Kubin Village man)

Respect for heritage and culture is crucial when collaborating with Indigenous artists and community. Particularly when businesses and money is involved, collaborations need to be conducted in a way that is beneficial to the artist and empowers their voice and stories. Selling Indigenous artwork in an ethical way is reliant on both businesses and consumers taking the time to learn and understand the culture and stories behind the artwork they are purchasing.

Through ethical collaborations and the sharing of Indigenous artwork and stories, a wider understanding of First Nations culture can be cultivated.

Too often First Nations art and culture is taken advantage of. Recently, we’ve all seen the rise of fake Indigenous artworks and souvenirs. These are products that aren’t designed by Indigenous people, they are disrespectful to Indigenous culture and steal economic opportunities from Indigenous people. Often copyright isn’t helpful as the fakes aren’t direct copies of artists works, they are just incredibly similar. It also makes it difficult for consumers to figure out what is authentic and what is fake, particularly for tourists who are often the buyers wanting to learn more about Indigenous culture.

Fake artwork is not just disrespectful because of the loss of economic opportunity and lack of permission, it is also highly disrespectful on a deeper cultural level. There are many artworks that tell stories that are sacred, they are not meant to be viewed by everyone. These artworks tell stories of the Dreamtime and sacred knowledge that is meant only for certain people.

First Nations people are the custodians and interpreters of their culture and heritage, and they have well established protocols for the viewing and use of cultural material.

It is essential that everyone inquires and learns about these protocols before starting any kind of project or collaboration with Indigenous artists.

Yarn is a Indigenous marketplace that offers a range of beautiful products featuring Indigenous artwork. It is our mission to pave the way for strong and meaningful collaborations with artists. For us it is essential that these collaborations are conducted in a way that puts the artist story and voice at the forefront. Our artists are paid on a licensing or royalties basis placing the artist in control of compensation. The control that artists have in the way that they are paid is essential, these kinds of transactions need to be conducted in a way that best benefits the artist. In terms of the creative part of the collaboration, we love to share the stories that our artists want to share.

These are stories about artists heritage, connection to land and culture that they wish to share with the world as a way of building appreciation of First Nations culture.

We hope that this has given other businesses and everyone some food for thought on how to conduct collaborations with Indigenous artists. At Bundarra we hope to inspire others to follow in our footsteps and think carefully about how they value Indigenous art and community. If you wish to find out more about Indigenous protocols and guidelines in relation to artwork and culture, AIATSIS (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies) provide very comprehensive guidelines on conducting ethical projects and research. We hope that businesses and consumers will continue to learn more about authentic artwork and ethical collaboration, because Indigenous art, culture and heritage deserves respect and appreciation from everyone.

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Australia’s premier marketplace for Indigenous products. A platform that supports Indigenous artists, community organisations and small businesses.

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Australia’s premier marketplace for Indigenous products. A platform that supports Indigenous artists, community organisations and small businesses.

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