Paula Savage, a senior Mualgal artist from the village of Dabu on Moa Island in the Torres Strait, has won the Mercedes Benz-sponsored 2023 Melbourne Design Week award.
The annual award – announced on the opening day of the seventh Melbourne Design Week – acknowledges an outstanding contribution to the design week program, and awards the recipient a $5000 cash prize.
Savage lives and works in the Kubin community on Moa Island, and has been a member and senior artist of the Ngalmun Lagau Minaral Art Centre since 2017. She is known for using shell and fish bones, sea life and hunting and fishing implements as vehicles to share her history.
Savage is revered as an artist who is skilled at bringing to life the ongoing traditional material practices of her cultural heritage. Her contribution to this year’s design week is in the form of three extraordinary works at the Melbourne Design Fair’s FOCUS exhibition.
FOCUS highlights the skills and conceptual talent of five acclaimed Australian female designers. Savage was signalled out for her work, which combines weaving, tie-dying, carving and jewellery making, and demonstrates her penchant for pushing the boundaries and situating her cultural practice in the fluid context of contemporary design.
Savage’s three works are titled Dollar Reef, No.2 Reef, and No.3 Reef, and reveal a focus on the sea life of three reefs off the coast of Lag Mua.
“There are three reefs off the coast of Lag Mua. The first, and closest, is Dollar Reef. It is the deeper one and most of the food comes from this one. Crayfish, fish, dugong, turtle and clams. The second and third reefs are further out and sit up higher,” says Savage.
“In the old times we went fishing and collecting in canoes, and carried seafood in baskets.”
National Gallery of Victoria director Tony Ellwood AM says that Savage’s work illustrates how contemporary design shines when it encourages us to look at the world differently.
“Savage’s woven vessels are joyful, innovative and generous and share stories of her home in the Kubin community on Moa Island,” says Ellwood.
Keep up with more Melbourne Design week events, such as Futures Collective at Villa Alba Museum.
Featured Image by Aaron Francis: Portrait of Paula Savage, winner of the 2023 Melbourne Design Week Award presented by Mercedes-Benz, and their work on display in FOCUS at Melbourne Design Fair2023 from 18-21 May at MelbourneConvention and Exhibition Centre, part of Melbourne Design Week 2023.