Biyani is a Tharawal word which means ‘women healing women’. It was chosen to name an Aboriginal women’s arts program led by Associate Professor Fabri Blacklock, Scientia Fellow at the School of Art & Design and Co-Associate Dean Indigenous at the Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture.

Biyani explores the impact of art practice, among other cultural traditions such as yarning and deep listening, on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal women. A/Prof Blacklock’s participatory-informed research approach aimed to support Aboriginal women to practice, record and exhibit their cultural knowledges. The program also considered the economic wellbeing of Aboriginal women, offering participants a platform to develop business skills and promote, sustain, and share their culture and stories through art production.

Supported by an Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support research grant, Biyani brought together a group of Aboriginal women from across New South Wales to attend On-Country events in Moree and Nambucca Heads and participate in workshops at the UNSW Paddington campus. The collaborative workshops extended the participants’ technical training in textiles, fashion and jewellery making, with the School of Art & Design providing access to studios, materials, equipment and mentoring from staff. Participants were provided materials to continue art production from their home base.

The culmination of their efforts is the group exhibition Biyani: Aboriginal Women’s Art as Ceremony, on display at Paddington gallery Room205 from 12 - 17 April.

According to A/Prof Blacklock, “the public exhibition of the women’s work forms an important aspect of the research approach, as it provides participants with access to the mainstream economy through the marketing and sale of their work”. In addition to technical workshops, the program included sessions on Indigenous Cultural Intellectual Property (ICIP), entrepreneurship, marketing, and exhibition curation, which were aimed at upskilling the participants and further developing their knowledge as practising artists.

The program outcomes and feedback from Biyani participants highlight the benefits of connecting Aboriginal women with culture. A/Prof Blacklock’s research sought to shift the focus on Aboriginal peoples from a deficit-based model to a culturally strength-based standpoint, as defined by the program participants. The women involved felt empowered to share their stories, in the process sustaining intergenerational knowledge transfer.

For more information on the Biyani program, please contact Associate Professor Fabri Blacklock: