This year at AAFW has been both thrilling and busy, with numerous remarkable moments to choose from. Among them, the INKUNJI Artists' display caught my attention the most. While browsing through the breathtaking images from the show at the hotel lounge, I was deeply touched by what I experienced.
Before the show, I had the opportunity to interview hair director Richard Kavanagh, who was preparing the models' hairstyles. Richard mentioned that the collection was so amazing that he became emotional watching the models rehearse. Backstage, I noticed the nervous models who were anxious despite their glamorous hair and makeup as they awaited the runway.
As the show began, a Welcome to Country was performed ahead of the IKUNTJI Artists show during Afterpay Australian Fashion Week 2023 at Carriageworks. The runway was packed with supporters, indigenous communities, and fashionistas alike. And as each model emerged wearing stunning ball gowns, tailored suits, and casual attire crafted from bold fabrics produced by the INKUNJI Artists, the collection came to life.
The designs were colourful, bold, and captured the significance of the world's oldest civilization sharing their traditions, infusing and teaching us about their culture, and bringing it all into the modern world. It was a beautiful and powerful display of Indigenous art and culture that left the audience feeling proud and exhilarated.
With a standing ovation when the runway concluded, the proud Elders took center stage and walked the runway with the models. It was a magnificent highlight of the event, and I am so proud to have witnessed it firsthand.
So without further ado, let me introduce you to a little bit about the IKUNJI ARTISTS and their show.
About IKUNJI ARTISTS
IKUNTJI Artists, an Aboriginal art centre located in the remote community of Haasts Bluff in Central Australia, is set to make history by presenting a solo show at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week. This marks the first time an art centre will present a show at the prestigious event. The IKUNTJI Artists Show is a community-led initiative that showcases the incredible talents and cultural heritage of the Haasts Bluff community in the Western Desert.
From design to production, this show has been a collaborative effort between the artists at IKUNTJI Artists and the wider fashion industry. It is a celebration of their culture and traditions brought to life through the medium of fashion. By creating this platform for their artists, IKUNTJI Artists promotes sustainable economic development and empowers their community through art and creativity.
The collection will feature designs inspired by the ancient landscape and Luritja culture of the Indigenous people of the Western Desert. The garments will be brought to life on the runway through the collaborative efforts of the artists and the newly appointed Creative Director, Ana Keshan. Ana, a proud Yorta Yorta, Gomeroi, Wiradjuri woman, is a celebrated stylist, creative director, and cultural activist who will bring the artists' stories and cultural heritage to the forefront of the fashion industry.
Ikuntji Artists have been exploring the area of fabric design and printing for the past five years. The textile design project began in 2016 when the artists started translating paintings into textile designs through screen-printing. The resulting collection of bold, evocative prints sets Ikuntji Artists as the first Art Centre in the Central Desert to release its own textile collection.
The artists draw their inspiration from their personal Ngurra (country) and Tjukurrpa (Dreaming), with designs that tell the story of intergenerational art and design spanning generations from senior and established artists to emerging next-generation artists. The designs are unique to Central Australia, particularly the sandhills, waterholes, jagged mountains, and sandy plains of the West Macdonnell Ranges region.
Ikuntji Artists is a member-based, not-for-profit, Aboriginal art centre situated in the community of Haasts Bluff (Ikuntji). The centre has a board of seven Indigenous directors, all of whom live and work locally. By presenting their show at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week, IKUNTJI Artists is not only showcasing their incredible talent but also celebrating the strength and resilience of the remote Indigenous community of Haasts Bluff and its place in the art world and contributions to the broader Australian culture.