FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
People are often critical or suspicious of the type of economic engagement that Aboriginal people choose to be involved with. This may be due to misunderstandings regarding cultural issues and the recognition that Aboriginal people have often been the victims of exploitation. At Better World Arts, we believe that reconciliation is the responsibility of all Australians and businesses can contribute much in providing expertise and finance to enable economic engagement for Anangu and other Aboriginal people. We have encountered many preconceptions from the wider community assuming, for some reason, that Aboriginal people don’t want to be involved in the mainstream economy, or make the most of the opportunities that are presented. As a social enterprise, Better World Art’s ambit is to maximise financial, cultural, educational and social opportunities for the entire community. Our business models are egalitarian which benefits many. We are pleased to be able to present opportunities to people who are more than happy to be engaged in whatever way they choose.
We want to buy something from Australia, why are they made in Kashmir?
Aboriginal people traditionally have no history of manufacturing – each item they make is always a ‘one off’. Better World Arts brings together the traditional crafts of International communities and Aboriginal art, to benefit both communities and produce handmade products.
The notion of mass-producing or manufacturing a standardised item is foreign to Anangu traditions. The enterprises that can work well with the involvement of Aboriginal people are those that integrate with the community, its people and their lives. The production of art and craft is such an activity. Our Cross-Cultural Projects are a productive collaboration between two cultures that capitalises on the cultural strengths of each.
How do the artists benefit?
Artists get royalties when their designs are used. The income stream that it provides artists is usually significant and enduring. Artists can receive an income over a number of years for an image used, value adding to a painting. We know that the project is working when in the gallery artists delight in seeing their image applied on a rug, cushion, jewellery or lacquerware and will sit down on a rug and start to sing the story of their design. We work primarily with the Anangu community but we also work with other Aboriginal communities as the opportunities and financial resources present, including on public arts projects.
How do communities benefit?
Unfortunately, traditional Aboriginal communities from central Australia have very little opportunity to engage in the mainstream economy. English is usually their 3rd or 4th language. The communities suffer a high level of disadvantage. Better World Arts has developed a range of programs to engage the community. They range from getting kids to school, helping people to maintain their health, sharing culture with wider audiences, and providing work opportunities. Better World Arts continues to build upon the many strengths of the culturally unique Anangu community.
Are your products FairTrade?
Better World Arts is a member of the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand and is endorsed as a Fair Trader.
Are the Kashmiri workers well paid?
Carolyn has a good business relationship with our suppliers which spans more than 15 years. She knows the families well and they are community minded people, involved in projects which ensure the well being of their own communities and workers. The rural workers in Kashmir are well organised and unionised. The handicrafts they make supplement their farming incomes and are done between farming work.
Is child labour involved?
We use every opportunity to engage the children in work activities at Better World Arts and to instil a work ethic in them! We are not always successful. However, our suppliers do not use child or bonded labour. Our main suppliers took part in a campaign to rid the industry of child labour.
Where are your products found?
Our base is in Port Adelaide and we have a retail outlet in the Central Market. We wholesale extensively throughout Australia and internationally to Museums and galleries. We can be found in Oxfam shops, the National Gallery of Australia and many Museum shops.
Where is the wool sourced for the Rugs and Cushions?
The wool is generally from New Zealand. The Kashmiris use NZ wool due to its durability, quality and colour, although they also use Kashmiri wool if the quality is similar. Tibetan wool is very soft, but does not pick up the colour as well as the NZ wool, which is the kind used by the Tibetan craftspeople for our rugs. Tibetan wool is a bit cheaper, however, the NZ wool has the ability to dye well.
Can women play Didgeridoo?
Didgeridoo is an instrument which originated in the north of Australia and is generally made from trunks or branches of trees hollowed out by termites, or from bamboo. It is sometimes considered a male instrument, however, in some areas women are custodians of the didgeridoo dreaming and make and play didgeridoos. Cultural practices between Aboriginal groups vary widely and what occurs in one area or language group might be different to what occurs in another.
Use of Aboriginal Images
Anangu who we work with have some taboos around using the name and image of a recently deceased person. We have contractual arrangements with artists (they tell us their wishes) around those issues and we respect the wishes of family at that time. In regard to images we use in our brochures etc. the Anangu artists we work with are proud of their work and community activities. It always creates a lot of joy when people see their images used.
Fine Art Images being used on Mass Produced Products
We have recently secured financial benefits for artists who have licensed their images to Ashdene a company who manufacture tableware. The artists are more than happy to take advantage of this opportunity. They delight in seeing their art on the products and it adds to the steady income stream going to many members of the community. It is different to what Better World manufactures, as we work directly with traditional craftspeople, but it still has benefits for individual artists and brings their culture, in a small way, into mainstream Australian and international homes.