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Article: The Stories Behind Our Aboriginal Designs

aboriginal art wool scarves australia merino luxury fashion ethical brand mainie

The Stories Behind Our Aboriginal Designs


Mainie is delighted to introduce its maiden collection of fine Australian Merino wool scarves featuring authentic Aboriginal art designs by Warlpiri women artists from Central Australia.  

Every design depicts a traditional Warlpiri Dreaming story that has been handed down to the artist through many generations of her ancestors over tens of thousands of years.

Desert Journey Dreaming - Mina Mina Jukurrpa

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Based on an original painting by highly acclaimed Warlpiri artist, Mary Napangardi Gallagher, the Desert Journey design depicts an ancient Dreaming Story about a journey by a group of Warlpiri women who travelled across the desert gathering a vine called Ngalyipi. The Ngalyipi vine has long been used by the Warlpiri women for sacred ceremonies. The vine also has medicinal uses. 

Mary Napangardi Gallagher was born at Napperby, a homestead 120 kilometres from Papunya, a remote Aboriginal community in Central Australia. When Mary was a young woman, she moved with her family to the Aboriginal community of Yuendumu, located in the Tanami Desert region 290 kilometres from Alice Springs. Mary met and married her husband in Yuendumu and later moved to Nyirripi, an isolated Aboriginal outstation about 160 kilometres north-west of Yuendumu, to raise her family.

Since 2006, Mary has been painting with Warlukurlangu Arts Aboriginal Corporation, an Aboriginal owned and governed art centre based in Yuendumu. The art centre staff regularly visit Nyirripi to collect finished work and drop off canvas, paint and brushes for the artists. When Mary is not painting, she likes to go hunting with her family for goanna and bush tucker. 

Red Earth Dreaming - Yarla Jukurrpa

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Based on an original painting by emerging Warlpiri artist, Alicka Napanangka Brown, the Red Earth design depicts a place called Cockatoo Creek, that is located on the tribal homelands of the Warlpiri Aboriginal people in the remote Tanami Desert region of Central Australia. It is a place where the Warlpiri women dig for traditional foods, Yarla (bush potato) and Wapirti (bush carrot).

Alicka Napanangka Brown was born in the Alice Springs Hospital, the closest hospital to her home community of Yuendumu, a former Aboriginal mission in Central Australia. Alicka comes from a long line of artists and has developed her artistic skills by watching her family paint and listening to their stories. Alicka attended the local Yuendumu community school. Since finishing school, Alicka has devoted most of her time and talents to painting.

Red Bark Trees Dreaming - Ngapa Jukurrpa – Mikanji

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Based on an original painting by young Warlpiri artist, Nicole Napaljarri Stevens, the Red Bark Trees design depicts an important watercourse on the Warlpiri homelands called Mikanji. Although, Mikanji is usually a dry creek bed, after the annual rains, soakages are formed deep under the ground. The soakages are like subterranean wells that provide a natural rainwater storage system. The wells are a vital source of fresh water for the Warlpiri people during the long dry season in the desert. The Warlpiri people believe that the spirits of two women can be seen at Mikanji in the form of two Ngapiri (river red gums).

Nicole Napaljarri Stevens paints with the Warlukurlangu arts centre. Nicole’s artworks are visual representations of the ancient Warlpiri Dreaming stories that have been passed down to her by her ancestors.

The Warlukurlangu arts centre has long been an important stronghold for the preservation of the traditional language and culture of the Warlpiri people.

Desert Tracks Dreaming - Warna Jukurrpa

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Based on an original painting by talented Warlpiri artist, Valma Nakamarra White, the Desert Tracks design depicts a traditional Dreaming story about a mythical serpent ancestor called Warna, who is known as the creator of the main waterways and creeks on the Warlpiri homelands. According to the stories told by the Warlpiri people, the serpent was searching for his lost family and travelled across the desert to be reunited with them. The tracks of his tail on the ground formed the creeks and waterways.

Valma Nakamarra White was born into a family of artists. Her mother is Sabrina Napangardi Granites and her grandmother was the late Alma Nungarrayi Granites, both established artists whose artworks have been exhibited in Australia and overseas.

Valma grew up listening to her mother and father’s Jukurrpa stories while watching her family paint.

Rock Pools Dreaming - Yumari Jukurrpa

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Based on an original painting by esteemed Aboriginal artist, Joy Nangala Brown, the Rock Pools design depicts the Yumari Dreaming story about a forbidden love between a man and a woman from different clans. The couple would meet in secret at a group of rocks in the desert called Yumari. The circles in the design represent the pools of water in the rocks.

Joy Nangala Brown was born in the Alice Springs Hospital on the 4th of July 1966. She spent most of her childhood at the former Aboriginal mission community of Yuendumu but also did several years of schooling in Alice Springs at Yirara College. In the early 1980s, Joy moved to Nyirrpi, an isolated outstation on the Warlpiri homelands and has lived there ever since.

Joy is the daughter of the highly successful Pintupi artist Pegleg Jampijinpa and she grew up with his artwork around her. Joy is married to Jay Jay Spencer, the adopted son of another famous artist from Yuendumu, Paddy Japaljarri Stewart. Joy and her husband have two children, a daughter and a son and grandchildren. Joy paints her father’s and grandfather’s Jukurrpa stories that were passed down to her by her mother and father, who in turn received them from their parents.

In her spare time, Joy enjoys hunting for goannas and bush tucker, playing cards, and singing in the church choir.  

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Night Ceremony Dreaming - Ngalyipi Jukurrpa - Yanjirlpiri

Based on an original painting by well-known Warlpiri artist, Geraldine Napangardi Granites, the Night Ceremony design depicts a sacred site on the Warlpiri homelands, called Yanjirlpiri, which means “star”. Yanjirlpiri is where the Warlpiri woman perform sacred ceremonies using the Ngalyipi vine.  

Ngalyipi is frequently depicted in Warlpiri artists’ paintings due to its many uses in daily life, including its medicinal properties. The vine is also used in traditional Warlpiri ceremonies. The origins of the ceremonies date back thousands of years and are performed at night with the woman dancing under the stars.

I am very proud of what we are doing at Mainie to bring together traditional Aboriginal designs with the finest Australian Merino wool to create a truly unique Australian fashion story.

Charmaine Saunders – Mainie Founder

Each wearable art piece in the Mainie wool collection is beautifully handcrafted from Woolmark-certified Merino wool. Super-lightweight and sensuously soft, these gorgeous scarves are the ultimate in timeless style and all-seasons versatility.

Every design in the collection is a meaningful tribute to the world’s oldest continuous living culture.

Mainie embraces social responsibility principles and is committed to supporting Aboriginal women artists from some of the most isolated and disadvantaged communities in Central Australia to earn an independent living from their own work and preserve their traditional cultural heritage for future generations.

All designs in the Mainie fashion collection are based on original artworks that have been ethically acquired under license from Aboriginal-owned arts centres in accordance with the Indigenous Art Code. Royalties are paid to the Aboriginal artists.

Every Mainie sold gives back to the Aboriginal woman artist who created the original design, to elevate and empower her, her family and her community.

Proudly Australian owned and operated, Mainie is a Supply Nation verified Indigenous owned business and an Indigenous Art Code approved dealer member.

For more information about Mainie, please visit our website:

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