A UNIQUE exhibition of contemporary indigenous fashion has landed at the National Museum of Australia as part of a national tour from the Bendigo Art Gallery.
Featuring the work of indigenous artists and designers from the inner-city to remote desert art centres, “Piinpi: Contemporary Indigenous Fashion” is part of a collaboration between the Alastair Swayn Foundation and the National Museum.
The show, which is believed to be Australia’s first major survey of contemporary indigenous textiles and fashion, brings together about 60 works by creators and brands such as Grace Lillian Lee, Lyn-Al Young, Lisa Waup x Verner, Hopevale Arts and Culture Centre, MAARA Collective, the Yarrenyty Arltere Artists, AARLI Fashion and LORE.
On hand for the official launch this morning (February 19) was Bendigo Art Gallery’s First Nations curator, Shonae Hobson, who told those present of the stories embedded in the garments, which were divided into four seasons, with themes drawn from rivers, waterways and native flora and fauna.
She explained that “Piinpi” is an expression that the Kanichi Thampanyu from the East Cape York Peninsula use to describe changes in the landscape across time and space.
Hobson said she felt a personal connection to the museum, since it held her great grandfather’s canoe in its permanent collection.
National Museum of Australia director Mathew Trinca, said how impressed he and his staff had been by the quality of the exhibition and, complimenting Hobson personally, Hobson, “by your eye”. The show, he said, would provide a joyful start to 2021 as a key event during the Museum’s 20th anniversary year.
Bendigo Art Gallery director Jessica Bridgefoot said the indigenous design movement was “industrious, innovative and has the potential to redefine the way the world engages with indigenous Australian culture and history”.
Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, said the fashion industry supported 200,000 workers across Australia.
“While the industry has experienced difficult times,” she said, it is regrouping, and “clearly indigenous fashion is an area where we have a unique strength… I know you will leave here inspired.”
CEO of the Australian Fashion Council, Leila Naja Hibri, who was also present at the launch, told “CityNews” that the First Nations designers she had spoken to had no issue with questions of appropriation and had assured here they would welcome the wearing of indigenous designs by the members of the broader community.
“They have a business; they are selling,” she said.
“Piinpi: Contemporary Indigenous Fashion”, Focus Gallery at the National Museum of Australia, 9am–5pm, daily, until August 8. Entry is free.