Friday, 19 July 2013

5 Questions with Judi & Mulapa Aboriginal Art

How did you originally become involved with Mulapa Aboriginal Art

"Mulapa" means 'really' or 'true' in Pitjantjatjara which is an Aboriginal language.  This is why when I started this business in 2010 I named my business "Mulapa Aboriginal Art" to highlight my number one principal: that I sell "really true" ethically sourced Aboriginal art.

I knew I didn't want to open a gallery to sell the art but I wanted to sell from home. Once that idea was in my mind, I needed somewhere to advertise my business.  I decided to sell on a stall at Orange Grove Markets because they are my local markets and I had been going there weekly since they started.

Also my home in Lilyfield is close to the markets, so it made sense to attract people from the local area or who were familiar with the area around the markets.

Part of your ethos is "Mulapa Aboriginal art is a signatory to the Indigenous Art Code and Australian Indigenous Art Trade and Fair Trade".  For those who may not fully understand "Indigenous Art Code" and "Indigenous Art Trade" could you explain in layman's terms exactly what this means

As a dealer in Aboriginal Art being a member of both organisations lets people know that I believe in and support the practise within the industry.

Membership of both organisations is voluntary. (nb: if you would like to learn more about Indigenous Art Code click "here" and for Indigenous Art Trade click "here").

The Indigenous Art Code ensures that artists are treated and paid fairly by dealers who work directly with them.  Australian Indigenous Art Trade Fair also makes sure that art works sold (usually through galleries) have been ethically sourced and that dealers behave at all times in an honourable manner when dealing with artists, communities and clients.

Not all galleries are members of both bodies, so if you do got to a gallery to buy, please check to see that they (the gallery or auction house) are members or if not, ask them why!

It would be difficult to say, hand on heart, that there are some pieces you fall hopelessly in love with and really do not want to sell them at market.  What is the process behind selecting exactly which pieces you do take to market to be sold

You are right!  Sometimes when I return from a buying trip a few pieces never make it to the's usually because my partner or I have fallen in love with the piece and we don't want to sell it.

I select paintings that appeal to me and that I would be happy to hang in my own home.  When I am packing the stock to take to market, I try to select from several communities and I certainly try to take different paintings each fortnight.

I take a variety of sizes and prices because my goal is to entice prospective clients to my home to view and select from the 300+ pieces I have there.

How often do you return to the local areas to select new pieces

Over the last 4 years I have been to Alice Springs and several remote communities in the Central & Western Desert at least once every year and sometimes twice a year.

This year in May I went to Yuendemu (350kms North West of Alice) for several days as a volunteer. 

Judy Watson Napangardi (in centre wearing red) painting one of her amazing masterpieces

This was an amazing experience: watching artists paint, cleaning paint and brushes, priming canvases, making teas for the artists, toasties for their lunch and generally helping out when needed.  I chose to do this because I wanted to get an idea of what exactly was involved in getting this amazing art out into the world.

I will be back in Alice in September for a week participating in "Desertmob" which is an annual event where all the art centres converge into Alice for meetings, exhibition and a market place where they sell the art!  I have never been but will be there this year! (you can read more about Desertmob 2012 "here")

We always ensure we ask permission before photographing items at market out of respect to both culture and artists.  For you personally, what is the most satisfying aspect of selling these incredible pieces at market and what has been one of the more profound reactions by a customer

My goal is to sell ethically sourced Aboriginal Art at fair and reasonable prices.  As a home-based business the overheads are minimal, so my prices are very affordable.  I am a firm believer that you should not buy a painting unless it makes your heart sing, so I am always encouraging people to take the painting home for a few days to check if it's right before making a purchase.

Mulapa has a not-for-profit philosophy of "giving back" to the artists and their communities as an act of reconciliation.  This year, the local high school has already received $375 to provide some extras for the Gifted & Talented Aboriginal students.  I will also be working with a local school to raise additional funds.

In fact, Mulapa's goal for the next year is to raise $5,000 for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation from sales of art works (to learn more or in fact become involved click "here").  As a retired Early Childhood professional, this organisation is close to my heart. I do this because I want to do something personally towards reconciliation outside of membership of a group or an organisation. 

Selling ethically sourced art allows me to follow my two passions: Aboriginal Art and Reconciliation.

The most profound reaction to a painting at the market came from a woman who stood in front of a painting with tears in her eyes.  She stood like that for several minutes before even asking anything about the painting.  I told her a little about the artist and showed her the story of the painting as documented on the Certificate of Authenticity.

When I told her the price she was so relieved that she could afford it and bought it on the spot.

The following day I received an email from her thanking me and telling me the painting still brought tears to her eyes every time she looked at it.

That makes me feel good!

Judi recently featured in Ciao Arts and we thank them for allowing us to reproduce this article for our blog

We thank Judi for sharing some insight in to her world and what Mulapa is all about. As the photographer for Orange Grove Markets can attest, the works are truly beautiful, deceptive in their "simplicity" and each with their own story.

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