American species capture Aussie spirit

Kurunpa Kunpu (Strong Spirit), a cross-cultural design collaboration between Tanya Singer, Errol Evans and Trent Jansen, was the cynosure of many eyes at the Melbourne Design Fair last year.

The American Hardwood Export Council’s (AHEC) latest design collaboration, the Kurunpa Kunpu collection is made in American cherry, walnut and hard maple.

By engaging with their respective cultural practices and traditions, the designers brought out a collection of works that speak to the resilience of both First Nations People and Ngura (Country), celebrating the potential for inter-cultural collaboration to embody diverse cultural values and lived experiences.

Engaging processes of Deep Listening to each other and Country, the collection was in part a response to climate change experienced by the designers’ communities in remote South Australia and a poignant reminder of the need for environmental responsibility and action.

Roderick Wiles, AHEC Regional Director, said: “The material choice of American hardwood species provides not only a visual contrast between the more temperate and arid regions of the planet but also an opportunity to investigate the scientific underpinning of claims of sustainability and environmental responsibility.”

The analysis of the collection’s impact on the environment, including its contribution to global warming, was presented to emphasize the significance of considering environmental factors when choosing materials and the practice of good design.

Manta Pilti (Dry Sand), made from American hard maple, walnut and cherry, has been designed by Tanya Singer and Trent Jansen to communicate the time- critical catastrophic effects human-induced climate change is inflicting on Country around Indulkana, in remote South Australia.

For countless generations, relational correlations between seasonal patterns of plants and animals have supported life in Indulkana, governing food collection, hunting, totemic relationships, and Law on Country. As the climate changes, these age-old relationships are thrown out of alignment.

Tanya’s references include the Parakeelya flower, a personally significant, seasonal and small purple bloom, which was her mother’s favourite. It once blanketed the Indulkana hills and is now seen far less frequently.

This fading bloom and the dry sand in which it grows are emblematic of hotter, dryer Country and tangible examples of ecosystem degradation in this region. They form the conceptual focus for the collaboration.

Tanya and Trent used the motif of cracking sand and Tanya’s interpretation of her mother’s favourite flower to inform the design of a furniture collection that can communicate this complex and troubling narrative.

Kutitji Chair (Shield), in American cherry and walnut, designed by Errol Evans and Trent Jansen, results from Errol’s passion for carving large objects. Errol is a highly skilled wood (punu) artist, known for embodying sophisticated cultural narratives in large carved forms including spears, nyura, tjutinypa and shields.

In carving these large objects, Errol usually begins with a chainsaw to rough out the form before using other mechanised and manual tools to painstakingly shape these highly refined artefacts.

The American hardwood forest resource has been sustainably managed for generations through careful and selective harvesting, resulting in an increase in volume each year as growth exceeds removals. To be truly sustainable it matters how we use what the forest provides and cherry and maple in particular are abundant but under-utilised species.



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