One really interesting fact about the Omie artists is that they are among the only indigenous cultures in the world who are still using barkcloth and painting it in a way that connects them to their ancient heritage. These works have a very tactile quality. They come with a certain feeling of age and a feeling of the environment because they’re not using any modern dyes or synthetic colours. The colours available to the artists are straight from the earth and they reflect that strong sense of local environment. The area where these works come from has very steep valleys in the shadow of a volcano. It’s an extraordinary landscape. This exhibition captures a special moment in time, with some of the works produced by very senior pre-contact artists. The cloth-making is a fascinating process. The materials all come from the natural environment. The fabric is like “felt” to look at and touch. It is made from the fibre of palm trees from the tropical forests. The artists have pounded the wood pulp into flat sheets and after drying have painted on them with designs of tribal, family and cultural inheritance. They’re very organic in their feeling. They combine layers of natural materials from the jungle, tree pulp with organic dyes extracted from plants. Sometimes some volcanic mud is used to give some deeper grey-black tones. Most of the tropical regions around the world have had traditions where they’ve created their own cloth from vegetable fibre, and subsequently decorated them as clothing and ceremonial items. These traditions existed across Asia, Africa, South America and across the Pacific Islands. Art forms like this become an endangered art; they’re no longer processed and made by people, and they’re no longer a very integral part of these indigenous communities. The Omie Artists, have relied on designs that are either of the environment or a part of ceremonial and cultural designs that belong to their people. There was a time when the indigenous people of this region had the custom of tattooing ceremonial designs on their bodies. After the arrival of missionaries in the area this tattooing practice was discouraged. The artists then began to transfer the designs onto barkcloths or nioges. The Omie world is alive with the minutia of nature – grub eggs, beetle homes, insects, hornbill beaks, teeth, feathers, the lizards jaw bone, stars, the moon. The micro and macro worlds intersect. The Omie live in the mountains between Kokoda and Mt Lamington, Oro. They have a diverse and highly coloured tapa aesthetic. Five Art Centres service artists across twelve villages and each of the centres play a vital role by ensuring that the ancient traditions of barkcloth painting as well as traditional culture remain strong and by providing economic returns to their artists.