Two artists, both graduates and academics from Charles Darwin University (CDU), have won the Community Collaboration Award in the 2021 National Indigenous Fashion Awards.
Dr Aly de Groot and Anna Reynolds, two Darwin-based textile artists, collaborated with Indigenous artists Maicie Lalara and Annabell Amagula at the Anindilyakwa Arts centre to present innovative designs at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and Country to Couture.
They were invited to Groote Eylandt to work with local women at the art centre to share, exchange and spark knowledge and interest in using contemporary textile to showcase culture.
With a passion for environmental conservation, Dr de Groot has been using ghost nets, which are discarded fishing nets in the ocean, to create artworks since 2011 such as the jellyfish displays recently featured at the Darwin Festival park this year.
The artists’ design work in the Awards features slow fashion with unique hand-made individual pieces using natural fibres and recycled and low-impact textile production.
Artists from Anindilyakwa Arts wish to preserve culture in body adornment while living in contemporary Indigenous contexts.
Their work reflects ways to protect and sustain the natural resources of the Groote Archipelago and feature the Anindilyakwa speakers’ cultural and environmental perspectives.
“Through working together, we hope to inspire younger women to learn traditional practices and revive old techniques. We hope for everyone to see the importance of continuing cultural practices through art and fashion,” Dr de Groot said.
“The clothes are valuable cultural items and continue to be considered important and worn and celebrated by the community in fashion shows and short films. They are a living memory.”
Reynolds said showcasing their work on the runway was an opportunity to celebrate the culture.
“Fashion is made to speak to history and culture. The collection that was presented on the runway is amazing. The whole collection is inspired by the Yinukwamba artefact, the original bark dress. Every piece relates to the natural colours, barks and the fashion illustrations that artists drew,” she said.
“It’s a historic and significant piece of work, so it’s nice to have it highlighted. It’s also a significant moment for artists on country.”
The two artists met during their studies at CDU, where Dr de Groot undertook her PhD studies and Reynolds completed her master’s degree.
“Studying at CDU was an invaluable experience and created a strong network of local creatives. One of the best things about studying at University was meeting people who had common interests,” Dr de Groot said.
“It’s important to have a strong art school that supports local people, cultural knowledge, community and the creative scene in the Northern Territory.”
More information about CDU's creative arts courses can be found here.