DENFAIR – Creating Connection

DENFAIR – Creating Connection

Denfair is Australia’s biggest Furniture show. Manapan felt very honoured to be invited to exhibit there and the response was fantastic! We had Jasiah Baker down from the workshop in Milingimbi to help on the stand, along with his son who is the multi-talented artist known as Baker Boy, Danzel Baker. Read more about Manapan at DENFAIR in the article below.



DENFAIR is a place where people come together to connect with each other over a common love of design. It is a place where we can appreciate innovations in the industry and support those who are changing the way we think about design. The importance of facilitating these human connections is at the core of furniture company, Manapan, whose name means just that: Come Together.

Manapan is the first of its kind in the furniture business and Mark White, the founder of Manapan Furniture, can attribute this to his desire to “give back”. After many successful years operating a commercial cabinetry business, Ramvek, Mark felt it was time for him to do something for others. Now, just two years since making the decision to embark on this project, Manapan is its own success story, with sustainability in economic, social and environmental achievements.

Mark describes Manapan’s intention by stating “the goal is to create employment in Arnhem land, that’s what we are all about, but the bi-product of this is we are building beautiful furniture.”

Manapan is owned by ALPA, an indigenous not for profit organisation, and operated by Yolngu, who are the indigenous people that live in Arnhem Land on the northeastern corner of the Northern Territory. Just off the mainland is the island community of Milingimbi where the Manapan workshop is located. Yolngu have strong traditions and a very industrious history, they were trading with the Macassan and Chinese for over 500 years before the Europeans settled in Australia. However, like many indigenous communities in Australia today there is a demand for employment but lack of options in such remote areas.

Robert Crisfield is Manapan’s Master Craftsman and he spends most of his time in the workshop with his team of Yolngu trainees teaching them the fine skills of wood working. His passion and devotion to his craft has transferred into the work of his crew who are quickly becoming experts in their trade. All of the Manapan furniture is produced by the core team of employees who come to work every day to develop their skills and with that a new sense of purpose and pride in the wonderful furniture they are producing. By forming a positive and ongoing relationship with Aboriginal Elder, Keith Lapulung, Mark is able to make sure everything is running as it should be to coincide with the culture of the community. Mark observes “the connectivity between the two cultures has flourished because we have something really in common.”

When Mark was gathering his ‘family of designers’ in Melbourne and Sydney, he was conscious of continuing the effort to diversify the group as much as possible. Mark discovered Alexsandra Pontonio at DENFAIR listed as an up and coming young designer and approached her to get involved with Manapan. Alexsandra states “this has been a remarkable opportunity to be a part of something so unique and meaningful.”

The Manapan Furniture collection is designed to have significance to The Arnhem Land and its traditions. Additionally, the timber being used is locally sourced which gives each piece a strong sense of origin. The works showing at DENFAIR have been mastered to perfection since the original collection was released and images from the workshop will also be displayed to convey the journey each piece has taken.

To build a lasting business, it is important to build lasting relationships. The Three Pillars of Sustainability (World Summit, 2005) are environmental, social and economic, and it is vital that all these areas are addressed in balance. By encompassing this concept in its entirety, Manapan proves there is business longevity and benefit to all who encounter it. Mark finishes by saying “lots of people want to connect, they just don’t know how.” Manapan is enhancing the lives of so many people by bringing together communities in ways that will build relationships for many years to come.

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