Piinpi: Contemporary Indigenous Fashion

Australian Indigenous artists have been recognised on the world stage for many years now. The vibrancy of colour, diversity, artistry and stories told, inspire educate, emote and engage us in the art of First Nation peoples. As art galleries started to reopen after Covid lockdown I was hugely excited to re-enter the world of exhibitions and galleries. At Bendigo Art Gallery Piinpi was showing. I had few expectations and knew little of indigenous fashion design and the powerful influence of culture in this form of applied art. What I saw and learned on my visit to the art gallery was exciting, powerful, contemporary and awe inspiring.

Fashion design is a group activity here. No trout lipped diva’s strutting their atelier haranguing staff with their egos. Even more than dresses and designs this exhibition challenges us to think about the creative process as a communal sharing of ideas.

I invite you to come with me and explore a few pieces in this amazing collection……

This design is simply stunning……

This gown is called Towera (fire) designed by Lyn-Al Young a young Gunnai -Yorta Yorta woman honouring her ancestral connections to the Gunnai peoples of East Gippsland.  Fire is culturally significant in indigenous storytelling. The garment is a celebration of country and shows off the artists bold painting techniques. Its expressive and grand like the fires in forests of her ancestors.

” As a painter and mark-maker, painting and creating is an act of worship. It is spiritual and ceremonial honouring the sacred storytelling and passing down of gifts and connecting to my ancestors on a deeper level.” Lyn Al-Young

Grace Lillian Lee, A Torres Strait islander created this piece called Hibiscus Sunrise. Hibiscus is a common motif in the art of the islands. Lee’s grandmother was a key influence in lee’s learning about art, The neck wear is very interesting using traditional weaving techniques that emphasizes layering and texture.

The back view shows some of the draping used to effect.

 

Finally a few shots of the colour spectacle of this  fashion art exhibition.

Take a closer look at the colour combinations.

and

There is a freedom and flow to the way the textiles are painted. Its youthful, uninhibited and vibrant. What also struck me was the number of photos of the artists working a a group.. a community of women sitting on the earth painting together, laughing and talking. Art and fashion design is a communal engagement. There is no one name attached to most of the designs.

To revisit my introduction…….. Fashion design is a group activity here. No trout lipped diva’s strutting their atelier haranguing staff with their egos. Even more than dresses and designs this exhibition challenges us to think about the creative process as a communal sharing of ideas.

Words and photography by Nora Vitins

17 December 2020 | Arts

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