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Maruku has export market carved up

Maruku has export market carved up

The harsh central desert of Australia might be the last place you'd expect a booming export market to be located, but Maruku Arts is breaking that mould.

With its intricate wooden bowls and mighty spear holders, the winner of the 2001 Northern Territory Arts and Entertainment Award, and national finalist in the 2001 Overseas Trading Arts and Entertainment Award, is proving a hit overseas.

Maruku Arts sources all of its artworks from its 20 member Aboriginal communities based in the desert.

Maruku Arts is the trading arm of the not-for-profit Anangu Uwankaraku Punu Aboriginal Corporation, with maru meaning "black" and ku meaning "belonging to". The main gallery for Maruku is based at the foot of Uluru, with export markets being tapped into through visits to art and craft fairs in Chicago, London, Edinburgh and Munich.

Stephen Fox, the Director of Maruku Arts, explained the individuality of the artwork appealed to overseas clients.

"The Americans and the Italians in particular like the fact that every piece of artwork is different," Mr Fox said.

"Everything is handmade. People carving in a fairly simple process and then burning designs on with wire heated in the fire.”

While Maruku has been operating since 1984, the idea was sparked three years earlier when several South Australian Aboriginal communities, including the Amata people, teamed up with their state arts adviser. The group travelled to Uluru and set up a tent to sell their arts and crafts for two weeks.

"It was such a success that everyone had a meeting and decided there was a real market for the Aboriginal arts and crafts,” Mr Fox said.

"We now have 1,000 artists on our books, with eight staff to oversee the collection and the marketing of the artwork.

"We go around about every eight weeks and visit 20 communities spread across three states in the central desert. We bring everything back to the warehouse, oil everything and then place the work in our gallery. We also wholesale to shops all over Australia.”

Maruku Arts receive an Export Marketing Development Grant through Austrade.

“Without the EMDG we wouldn’t be able to travel to Chicago each year and have a display stand at the annual Sculpture Object & Fine Arts festival where we gather a lot of important contacts,” Mr Fox said.

He said winning an export award had helped Maruku Arts.

"It has given us a lot of kudos," he said.

Tuesday 23 July 2002


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