Regina Pilawuk Wilson

1948 | Daly River Region, Northern Territory, Australia
Regina Pilawuk Wilson — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Portrait of Regina Pilawuk Wilson

Ngan’gikurrungurr-Australian weaver.

Master weaver Regina Pilawuk Wilson is an Elder of the Ngan’gikurrungurr language group of Northern Australia’s remote Daly River Region and is one of Australia’s most preeminent living Indigenous artists. Born in 1948 on the banks of the deep running waterways and floodplains of her traditional homelands, Wilson began weaving at the age of ten under the tuition of her mother and extended family. Ancient practices handed down to Wilson and her sisters ranged from the harvesting of malleable plant fibres and ochre pigments from the bush, through to the deft configuration of these natural materials into refined tools for hunting and gathering. These objects included: fish nets, syaw (airbell fish traps), wupun (baskets) and dilly bags (string bags made to carry on the head when wading through swamplands to collect eggs). Her clan group’s breadth of cultural and ecological knowledge – and the intimate bonds of kinship that tie the Ngan’gikurrungurr people to their Country – inform the artist’s meticulous weaving practices. Wilson Wupun (Sun Mat) of 2014 is a striking assemblage of an array of organic media the artist wields from Country, including pandanus and sand palm dyed with red, yellow and black ochres.

In 1973, following a successful series of land rights campaigns, Wilson and her husband were the first of their people to move off the Catholic mission and return to live on their ancestral lands. This initiative led to a much broader mobilisation, and together the Wilson’s established the Peppimenarti Community – a permanent settlement for the Ngan’gikurrungurr people. Translating to “large rock”, the community’s namesake refers to a sacred dreaming site that overlooks Peppimenarti and bears layers of significance for Wilson and her family. As the matriarch of Peppimenarti, Wilson founded the community’s art and cultural centre, Durrmu Arts, in 2001. Since its inception, Wilson has acted as Chairperson and been instrumental to the art centre’s cultural and commercial strength. Many generations of children have been taught to weave by Wilson at Durrmu Arts, learning the stories interwoven with the techniques in the process.

After attending the Festival of Pacific Arts in Noumea in 2000, Wilson became inspired to introduce acrylic painting into her traditional weaving practices. During an experimental passage that followed, she began transferring her intricate textile designs and patterns onto canvas, viewing this foremost as a method to further support the transference of knowledge to her descendants. Wilson’s painting on linen Syaw (Fish Net) (2015), holds within it a map for constructing the very same fish nets that the artist observed her grandfather assemble in her childhood. Although global travel may influence Wilson’s aesthetic in new ways, the artist maintains that “my messages stay the same – the symbols of my ancestors”.
In 2003 Wilson was awarded the General Painting Award at the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA), Darwin, Australia. Her artworks have since been collected by public and private collections throughout Australia and abroad, including the British Museum, London, and she has exhibited extensively around the world.

Kate Alida Mullen

A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring

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