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AUSTRALIA. ELCHO ISLAND. Indigenous artists fight pandanus export ban
03/09/2011 12:34:21

"Soft sculptures" of animals, plus baskets, circular mats and dillybags woven from pandanus leaves by indigenous women on Elcho Island have been caught up in a bureaucratic bungle that has delayed exports to a commercial exhibition in London.
The plant, used as part of the artwork, is protected by federal legislation and there are severe penalties for artists if the material is exported without ministerial approval.

Elcho Art Centre director Susan Cochrane acknowledges the importance of environmental sustainability, but she says pandanus trees grow profusely in Arnhem Land and the women used only the leaves, not the wood of the plant, for their works. They don't cut down the tree. The Arts Law Centre of Australia and law firm DLA Piper wrote a 30-page application for a ministerial exemption, so the Elcho artists could transport their sculptures to the exhibition within the limited timeframe.

As a result, the artwork made it to the Rebecca Hossack gallery in London just in time for the exhibition opening in June. Environment Minister Tony Burke says his department is working towards not inhibit indigenous communities from carrying out traditional cultural activities and their ability to make money from it. 

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