Aunty Barb’s weaving journey is a testament to the power of art, craftsmanship, and the passing on of cultural knowledge. Through her dedication and love for weaving, she not only finds personal fulfilment but also plays a vital role in preserving and sharing her cultural heritage. Barb Walker is a Wiradjuri woman from Wagga Wagga who has called Pittsworth, Giabal country, home for many years now.

I asked Aunty Barb what question does she want people to ask her and why?

I suppose the main thing I would like people to ask is, where do you get your inspiration?
And why do you feel the need to pass on your knowledge?
And it’s mainly because I just, get such joy out of my weaving. That, to me, it’s not a chore. It’s something that I really love to do. And I do it whenever I get the opportunity. But being able to teach somebody else how to do that, and how to connect with the country that we’re on. It’s not always about my home country. It’s more to do with where I am at the time, the people that I’m with, what I’m working with, whether it’s a natural grass, whether it’s something that I’ve dyed myself. And then I also talk to people when they asked how you dye it then I get into processes of dyeing and I tend to use more natural food colors rather than chemical dyes because when I’m working with children, I don’t want them licking their fingers, getting chemicals in their bodies So I’m using things like blueberry’s, mulberries and things like that. I know it’s all natural foods, and it’s not going to hurt. So, I think that’s the main thing.

I think I’ve always had an instinctive need to do it, from sitting out in the front lawn with my sisters and making daisy chains and what twinning pieces of grass together to make string and, stuff like that. And then it wasn’t until probably about 14 years ago when I really dedicated myself to actually doing weaving. And then to help me along that journey I’ve had time with Aunty Bronwyn Razem down in Geelong in Victoria, she’s a Gunt Jamara woman. And Aunty Kath Withers and Aunty Gail Manderson from Wagga Wagga. Aunty Sonja Carmichael from North Stradbroke and from Minjerribah she’s a wonderful Quandamooka women, and Felicity Chapman from Airlie Beach, she’s got a really extensive heritage and I can’t list all her mobs. And also, another friend Lynn who she dabbles in all types of weaving. I’ve got a lot of non-Indigenous people that also weave, and they use a lot of different products. So, I’ve tried them, but I always come back to the products that I love working with.

Tidda baskets or the sister basket. They’re usually around about two feet (60 centimeters) wide. So, they can hold quite a lot and they’re traditionally given from Sister to Sister, mother to daughter, friend to friend, grandmother to granddaughter, and they would have things in them that the giver thinks the receiver will need. So, it’s like a glory box, or a trousseau or something like that. You would have, you know, things like kangaroo skins, needles, homemade string of varying thicknesses, possum skins, whatever they think that person would need. But now we actually make them much smaller so people can actually wear them, and they can still put little things in them. I have constantly got crystals in mine that have all got centering properties to keep me upright. So, it’s all very good. And I actually find with my manière’s disorder that I’ve got that affects my balance. My weaving grounds me, it really gives me that stability and stuff. Whereas a lot of my other crafts that I used to do, I used to get dizzy just from watching my hands move, whereas with the weaving, it’s very calming, very centering, and peaceful.

Thank you, Aunty Barb, for giving us permission & allowing us to share some of your story.

Happy NAIDOC Week – ‘Our Elders’ – 2023