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Countertop Culture: An Australian Indigenous Story

Words by Emilie Dock

It started with an idea: what if your kettle could tell you stories while you pour your morning cuppa? The concept, pitched by award-wining creative and Wadi Wadi and Walbanga woman of the Yuin nation Alison Page to Sage’s design and innovation director Richard Hoare, became a passion project – and 16 years later, we see the results in a unique collection of kitchen appliances. 

Curated by Page, the six pieces are adorned with the works of esteemed Western Desert artists, and members of the original Pintupi Nine, Yalti Napangati, Yukultji Napangati, Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri, and Sydney-based artist and Yuwaalaraay woman, Lucy Simpson. Together, they invite us to celebrate 65,000 years of ongoing Australian Indigenous culture – the oldest living food culture – through the narrative power of visual storytelling.
“An Aboriginal Culinary Journey is an ambitious initiative to tell stories using products as canvas. The artists had the brief of combining our ancients arts practice with contemporary design,” said Page. 
Page and Sage’s team visited the remote Indigenous Kiwirrkurra community in Central Australia, where the artists each painted directly on the appliances. To stay true to the intricacies of their designs – the brushstrokes, paint translucency and colour – Sage used 3D scanning to create multi-layered decals that were individually applied by hand to each product.  
The artists own the copyright for their work and receive a royalty for each product produced. Plus, 100% of Sage’s profits will go to First Nations foundations: the National Indigenous Culinary Institute’s work to create employment opportunities for aspiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chefs; the 'Indi-Kidi Program' by the Moriarty Foundation to support childhood nutrition and sharing Indigenous Food Culture; and for Indigenous scholarships and initiatives at the University of Technology Sydney to create pathways for employment in engineering, technology and design.

Shop an Aboriginal Culinary Journey by Sage exclusively at Harrods in the UK in the Home & Furniture department on the Third Floor – or via Personal Shopping.

“Living in the heart of people’s homes these once everyday objects become cultural ambassadors. Indigenous Australians have always made marks of meaning on tools for living, so this idea is just keeping up with the times,” said Margo Ngawa Neale, Head of the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge, Senior Indigenous Curator and Advisor, The National Museum of Australia.

  • Toaster


    By Lucy SImpson — Dhunbarrbil tells a story of the Yuwaalaraay country as a place abundant in plant-based foods. It references the seasons, and knowledge systems around harvesting, grinding grain and making bread. 

  • Kettle


    By Yalti Napangati — The artwork depicts women sitting together at traditional rock holes, drinking tea made from the sweet nectar of the Piruwa, a shrub found in central and northern Australia.

  • Coffee Machine


    By Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri — During ancestral times, Tingari men travelled to the swamp site of Marawa in Western Australia. They passed under the earth’s surface and continued travelling underground.

  • Coffee Machine


    By Yukultji (Nolia) Napangati — While camping at the site of Marrapinti, west of the Kiwirrkurra Community and the Pollock Hills in Western Australia, ancestral women made nose bones, aka marrapinti, before travelling east.

  • Oven


    By Lucy Simpson — This piece connects to one of the many roles of the Yuwaalaraay women as the carers for dhuuyaay (fire stick farming), a tool used in ceremonial season and in everyday life. 

  • Juicer


    By Yalti Napangati — Based on the kampurarrpa, or desert raisin, which has been a staple food of the indigenous people of Central Australia for many thousands of years, this design tells a story of collecting and juicing native fruits.  

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