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21 November 2018 

What is Indigenous Art?

What is Indigenous Art?

Indigenous Art is the artwork created by the Indigenous people (the traditional people) who come from the land.

Indigenous Art can be found throughout the Southern Hemisphere region in Australia (Aboriginal Art), in New Zealand (Maori designs), the Pacific Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and the Torres Strait Islands.

What is Indigenous Art - the types of media used

Indigenous Australian Art encompasses many forms of media. It can be found as:

  • painting on leaves
  • wood carving
  • rock carving or painting
  • sand (ochre) painting
  • body painting
  • sculpture
  • ceremonial clothing
  • weaponry
  • design - artistic pieces

Indigenous Artwork includes both pre-European finds, and contemporary art also. A common theme can be found across Indigenous art, that is, connection to the four elements of wind, water, fire and air in nature, and references to the physical, spiritual, and intellectual realms.

What is Indigenous Art - JJ and family

Supporting Indigenous Artwork and Artists

Recycled Mats stocks a range of recycled plastic mats made from discarded plastic shopping bags and recycled PET plastic water bottles, featuring Aboriginal designs. 

All these Aboriginal mats showcase Indigenous Art and feature Aboriginal designs by local artists from Queensland, NSW, Victoria, and South Australia.

All of the Aboriginal designs tells a story – artists are encouraged to voice the stories from their heritage and cultural connections in a way that is educational and meaningful, as well as aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

What is Indigeous Art? Mats are enjoyed by Aboriginal people too

Aboriginal Designs

When the idea of recycled plastic mats was born, JJ's (the founder of Recycled Mats) ultimate aim was to marry the concept of sustainability with the practical support of First Australians to provide a brand-new product featuring authentic Indigenous art designs.

She wanted to find a way to promote the work of Indigenous Australians, New Zealand Maori, and Pacific Islander artists in a new way on merchandise that would appeal to ALL customers, not just tourists looking for a souvenir.

Artist Designed Floor Mats

The Indigenous artists commissioned by Recycled Mats for projects have a variety of backgrounds and professional careers, and come from locations as diverse as cities and rural townships.

Their upbringing, their connection to country and spiritual beliefs, and their ancestry informs the designs they create for our Aboriginal mats – no design is the same.

We also stock a range of gorgeous Maori designs by our New Zealand artists, and yet others by artists from Bali, the Torres Strait Islands, and the Pacific Islands too.

Recycled Mats has a growing dominance in the marketplace as the “go-to” place to buy recycled plastic picnic and camping mats and we love that. This means more work opportunities, which means more dollars, for more artists, from more communities. JJ and her team are so proud of that.

Ethical Principles

Naturally, on occasion, some of our customers want to confirm the claim that our products are ‘ethically manufactured’. Sometimes our customers want assurance that we pay our Indigenous artists award rates. Others enquire why our Aboriginal Mats are manufactured in overseas factories, instead of in Australian ones, using the skill and labour of Australian workers.

As an ethical business working alongside Indigenous Artists, we walk our talk, and are transparent with our customers at all times.

On a practical level, we are proud to have become a signatory to the Indigenous Art Code very early on in our start up phase, becoming an accepted member back in 2013.

Indigenous Art Code

The Indigenous Art Code is a body whose mission is to prevent exploitation of local artists in Australia and elsewhere, ensure transparency in business dealings and financial conditions of contracts with individual Indigenous artists, and encourage fair, equitable and respectful dealings with Indigenous artists.

Artists who work with Recycled Mats to design Aboriginal Mats are paid upfront, or via royalties at their request.

When a particular design from the collective of Aboriginal Mats is highly popular, JJ may renegotiate to alter the Artist's original contract to ensure a fair outcome for the artist in question.

Recycled Mats also offers bulk discounts on a number of recycled mats to help disperse the artist’s message to a wider audience. The company creates opportunities for a number of Indigenous community groups too.

Community groups buy mats at wholesale prices and then resell these Aboriginal Mats at a profit, creating an income for themselves, their families and enabling them to contribute to their communities too.

What is Indigenous Art - Caravan mats

Aboriginal Designs Invoke Stories to be Told

Our Aboriginal Artist-designed Recycled Plastic Mat Collection started back in 2008.  We hired Indigenous Australian visual artists to create one-off designs that are eye-catching and beautiful, but also culturally sensitive. The design brief was simple - JJ and the team wanted the Aboriginal mats to tell a story, and tell a story they do.

Our Indigenous artists are encouraged to market their own mat designs thorough their business or community channels also, which helps lift their profile further and provides a second source of income beyond the initial graphic design and licencing payments. This is a win-win situation for all.

At all times, Recycled Mats wants their Indigenous Artists to feel that working with the team at Recycled Mats is beneficial, and a positive experience for themselves and their communities.

What is Indigenous Art - childcare mats

Recycled Mats can be used as Indoor and Outdoor Rugs

JJ actively networks with the current team of Indigenous Artists to find new and upcoming artists by word of mouth. Unlike times gone by, where exploitation of local Indigenous artists was common, and phony ‘Aboriginal patterns’ featured on everything from boomerangs, didgeridoos, tea towels and t-shirts, Recycled Mats are proud to pay market price for the concepts and designs their artists create.

Our Indigenous artists have a guarantee that we will never reproduce their original artworks on anything but the mat, cushion, pod chair, or homeware piece they designed. Recycled Mats will never manufacture Aboriginal mats with inauthentic or bogus artwork created by someone with no connection to Indigenous communities.

To prove this, we include a certificate of authenticity with every mat purchased.

Creation of Mats

The timeline from concept to completed design of our Aboriginal Mats can vary considerably.

Each artist works together with JJ to brainstorm possibilities and options of designs that can be translated to a recycled plastic mat.  The Indigenous artist is then given free-will to bring that concept to life.(At least one of our Indigenous artists conferred with her local community elders to seek feedback and approval before she finalised her idea and story, and finally committed it to paper.)

Samples of the Aboriginal Mats are then made in China, and bugs are ironed out. Then, Recycled Mats commits to a full run, releasing the new Aboriginal Mat designs to the public.

JJ and her team at Recycled Mats have a goal to make Indigenous Art accessible in an authentic way to the men, women, and children of Australia and the world.

What is Indigenous Design - De Greer-Yindimincarlie

Aboriginal Artist Bios

The artists for the Aboriginal mats currently include

  • De Greer Yindimincarlie,Wiradjuri Country
  • Helen Price,Darumbal Country
  • Dean Jakamara Briscoe,Central Desert
  • Christine Slabb, Bundjalung Country
  • Wallamarra Elliott, Wiradjuri Country
  • Michael Gilsenan, Yidinji & Stephen Island, Torres Strait Islands
  • Barry Watson, Werrgaia Country
  • Angela Marr-Grogan, Birpai / Biripi Country
  • Zac Bennet-Brown, Torres Strait Islander
  • Jack Mccale, Biridii Country
  • Lee Townsend, Kamilaroi & Dharug Country

You can read all of the artist’s bios and learn more about their designs for our Aboriginal Mats here

Recycled Mats have other gorgeous products too!

  • This range of Kids Floor Mats are the perfect addition to childcare centres, family day cares, play rooms and homes.