Practising Art – a Guide to DAAF 2021 Textiles and Fashion

Over the past few months, we’ve been introducing you to some of the dynamic art mediums you’ll be able to catch at this year’s DAAF online. We hope you’re feeling a little more armed to tackle the amazing diversity and richness of contemporary Indigenous practice today.

In exciting news, the journey doesn’t stop here! Today we’re taking a step out of art and into fashion and textile design – a super exciting realm of practice that’s only just beginning to scratch the surface. It all started with the 2008 GFC, which saw Art Centres seek out fashion and textiles as a way to develop much needed new revenue streams for their communities.

Much like art, Indigenous textiles hold deep meaning for artists and communities, standing as a medium that pushes the boundaries of contemporary First Nations culture. Today, there are more than 20 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Centres and women’s centres that produce textiles and fashion as a core part of their businesses, to national and international acclaim.

Let’s catwalk!

Words by Camilla Wagstaff. 

Anindilyakwa Arts: Maicie Lalara

Anindilyakwa women are renowned for their contemporary bush dyed textiles, weavings, fashion and jewellery pieces. A day at Anindilyakwa Arts on Groote Eylandt often sees these women sitting together by the sea to design each garment, carefully placing leaves to make patterns and markings on the fabric before placing them into dyepots full of gathered plant materials.

Maicie Lalara is one such experienced and accomplished artist at Anindilyakwa Arts who enjoys sharing her culture with diverse audiences, in person and through online workshops. A skilled weaver and designer, Maicie works with various mediums, incorporating the old with the new by using both natural fibres and reclaimed ghost nets.

 Ladies bush dyeing at the beach, 2021, Photo courtesy of Anindilyakwa Arts

Merrepen Arts: Kieren Karritpul

Located around 250 kilometres from Darwin, Merrepen Arts well known for its unique and vibrant works on fabric, as well as dynamic paintings, prints and weavings.

Merrepen’s dynamic textile practice is reflected in the work of young talent Kieren Karritpul, who, at only 26 years old, has work in most major national collections across the country. Kieren took our the inaugural NIFA Textile Design Award last year and is currently a finalist in the prestigious Ramsey Prize at the Art Gallery of South Australia. He’s also working on an exciting fashion collaboration, as well as a major exhibition to be announced soon. He is certainly one to watch!

Fishnet fabric, Kieren Karritpul, screen printed design onto fabric, 2021, 100 x 200, Photo courtesy of Cathy Laudenbach Merrepen Arts.

Bábbarra Women’s Centre: Deborah Wurrkidj

Bábbarra Women’s Centre represents women from more than 12 language groups in the Maningrida region of Arnhem Land. The women come together at the Art Centre to share their knowledge and ideas, and to collaborate on their main social enterprise, Bábbarra Designs. Operating the project since 1989, Bábbarra artists hand-print exquisite textile designs, enabling financial independence for themselves, their community and the next generation.

Bábbarra’s Deborah Wurrkidj is a highly regarded artist who has readily adapted to new art forms while retaining her strong clan traditions. She has been working with the enterprise since 1991, alongside her mother, Helen Lanyinwanga, and sister Jennifer Wurrkidj. She is a leading textile artist and an integral member of Bábbarra Women’s Centre.

Rocks and Yam vine, Deborah Wurrkidj, Screen print on 100% Silk, 2012, 200cm x 140cm, Photo courtesy of Bábbarra Women’s Centre

Bima Wear: Therese (Tara) Munkanome

The talented Tiwi women at Bima Wear are known for their unique fabric prints and sewn garments in brilliantly bold, timeless designs. Bima Wear fabrics feature the traditional symbols, family structures and environmental representations central to Tiwi culture.

After months of working collaboratively from opposite ends of Australia, Bima Wear and clothing brand Nobody Denim recently co-produced a capsule collection that pairs a striking Tunga print from by artist Tara Munkanome with Nobody’s classic denim designs. The collection features 7 beautiful pieces, brought together by Munkanome’s dynamic art practice spanning more than 30 years.

Nagula Jarndu: Nikita Drummond

Working on Yawuru Country in Broome, Nagula Jarndu artists specialise in contemporary hand-printed textiles and works on paper that employ block and screen-printing techniques. These techniques involve creating a picture or pattern by forcing ink onto a surface through a screen of fine material, with some areas made impermeable to the ink by a blocking stencil.

Yawuru woman Nikita Drummond is one such hand block printing master. A true master with fabric, her works reflect her connection to Country and culture through flora, fauna and the unique natural environment of the Kimberley and Pilbara regions. Nikita’s works on paper take on the bold, modern patterns and designs you might associate with fine fabrics.

Boab nuts, Nikita Drummond, 3 colour block print on silk, 2021, 2 metre length of silk, Photo courtesy of Nagula Jarndu


More to come from the ‘Practising Art’ series as we delve into the exciting mediums and artistic practises of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists who’ll be part of DAAF online this August 6-11 2021!

Be sure to check out this year’s program, register for your early access, and take a look at the incredible list of over 70 participating Art Centres: 

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