New Indigenous Textiles – The Next Wave

Ian Plunkett reflects on the 2017 Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) in Darwin and the excitement around the re-emergence of Indigenous textiles.

You couldn’t attend this year’s Aboriginal Art Fair without noticing the growing excitement around Indigenous textiles. The colours and textures of fabric and clothing created a fresh energy and vibrancy to the Art Fair. You could see how the textiles attracted the interest of a much younger generation. The place was abuzz with fresh faces and new energy.

For many young people, the sight of Indigenous textiles is something new.  At Japingka we have an affinity for it because back in the 1980’s  we were part of a company called Desert Designs. We were one of the first to promote textiles that celebrated Indigenous design. It was a time of bringing Indigenous artwork into the mainstream of Australian design practice. Over the thirty years since those early designs, there have been a number of movements to incorporate Indigenous art into design and lifestyle products.

So now to see textiles re-emerging makes me think that maybe we were a bit ahead of our time.  Having said that, it was still wonderful to see Indigenous design in textiles again. It makes so much sense that Aboriginal designs are going to translate well into clothing and interior design fabrics.

A lot of the designs are primarily body paintings. That is part of the reason they look so great on fabrics worn on the body in the form of scarves and dresses. The designs are energetic and alive, and they move with flow of the body, they make a real connection as body art.

Some of them are textiles for furnishing. You see these used as cushion covers and furnishing fabrics. I’ve heard that there is strong interest from interior designers. They represent a fantastic addition to Australian design for our homes and interior spaces.

There were many colourful stalls at the Darwin Art Fair with textiles included in their displays. It was vibrant. For the communities, this activity represents such a healthy connection to culture as well as employment for their people. I’m pleased to see that happening.

Over the last few months, we’ve been pleased to exhibit some of the hand made textiles from GrooteEylandt. These are the bush-dyed silk scarves that we love. It’s been wonderful having them here.

Each scarf is individual because it’s hand dyed, and traditional materials are used to create the colours. The result is creatively stunning, the like of which I’ve never seen before.  I just love it.