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Dr Aly de Groot's weaving her magic to advocate and educate

This article appears in: Alumni stories, Creative and Performing Arts
Award winning contemporary fibre artist Dr Aly de Groot

A move to the Northern Territory sparked a decades-long love affair with basketry and weaving for Dr Aly de Groot. After an illustrious career in the arts industry, she maintains her dedication to advocating for Indigenous fibre and textile artists and educating the public about environmental issues.

Aly first encountered traditional basket-makers at the Merrepen Arts Cultural Festival in the Nauiyu Nambiyu (Daly River) community, learning how to make fibres from pandanus leaves and use native plants to dye them.

“Experimenting with different techniques and materials became my life. All I wanted to do was sit next to a nice creek and practice the repetitive weaves to make different forms,” she says.

“After this initial introduction to traditional fibre arts practice, I have continued to explore and experiment to create baskets and woven sculpture in a contemporary fibre art context for over twenty years.”

Lifelong learning

Aly’s relationship with CDU also spans decades, starting with a Bachelor of Arts in the early 2000s.

“When I first started my learning journey at CDU I didn’t think I was smart enough for university. I didn’t even know how to turn on a computer,” she says.

At CDU I have received ongoing support, scholarships and opportunities that allowed me to pursue my creative and academic goals.

She continued her creative practice through a Master of Visual Arts and then went on to acquire a PhD in the Faculty of Arts and Society, throughout which she produced large-scale bronze woven artworks that remain much-loved landmarks along Darwin’s coastline.

Her dancing bronze jellyfish can be spotted at East Point, a flock of migratory shorebirds is located at Lee Point, and the Dripstone Cliffs are home to a mother and baby dugong.

'Intertwined' by Aly de Groot
Intertwined (2014) located at East Point, NT

To extend her knowledge about art can be used to benefit the wider community, Aly completed a Graduate Certificate in Creative Therapies and ran weaving wellness workshops for CDU students. This led to her facilitating weaving wellness workshops for MIFANT (Mental Illness Fellowship NT). 

Aly will continue her lifelong learning by travelling to Europe and the UK as a Churchill Fellowship recipient to investigate endangered basket making techniques. She plans on sharing her learnings when she returns to Australia.

A colourful career

Wish Upon a Jellyfish Installation by Aly de Groot at Darwin Festival 2022
Wish Upon a Jellyfish Installation at Darwin Festival 2022

Aly's extensive work in education and community projects throughout Australia is widely recognised and her artworks have featured in many prestigious national art awards, including the Alice Prize (finalist), the Waterhouse Natural Science Award (highly commended) and the TOGA art award (winner).

“My personal journey as a contemporary fibre artist has been one of exploration and discovery with hands-on experience and creative research. I explore ways in which to translate basketry techniques along with a variety of mediums to develop my personal relationship with the natural environment and maintain a respectful relationship with the traditional Owners of this Country from the many language groups across the vast continent.”

From Batchelor Institute educator and Groote Island Arts Centre Director to artist in residence at the Museum and Art Gallery of the NT (MAGNT) and now CDU adjunct researcher, Aly’s career in the arts industry has always centred around advocating for Indigenous fibre and textile artists and educating the wider community about art and environmental issues.

Aly de Groot's ghost net sea turtle artwork
Sea Turtle, hand woven from recycled fishing nets and floats

Despite her many accolades and career achievements, Aly maintains her humble dedication to the community.

I enjoy inspiring people and sharing creative tools that I know bring health benefits and happiness.

Dr Aly de Groot has been nominated for an Alumni Award for Industry Excellence in the 2023 CDU Alumni Awards.

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