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Australia’s first major survey of contemporary Indigenous fashion has launched at Bendigo Art Gallery

WORDS BY NINA FITZGERALD

One not to be missed.

Bendigo Art Gallery has launched Australia’s first major survey of contemporary Indigenous Australian fashion. The exhibition was created exclusively for and by Bendigo Art Gallery and will shine a light on Australia’s leading First Nations creatives, and the exciting design movement that is quickly becoming a national fashion sensation.

Piinpi features more than 100 garments and design objects from both major public and private collections, as well as new collections from both designers and art centres. It includes the work of 70 Indigenous fashion designers and artisans, including Grace Lillian Lee, Lyn-Al Young, Julie Shaw, Maree Clarke, Lisa Waup x Verner, Hopevale Arts, Bula’Bula Arts and many more.

“First Nations artists and designers are expressing their culture and connection to Country in very exciting and bold ways – distinct from anything else being produced around the world – and this is something worth celebrating,” says First Nations curator for Bendigo Art Gallery, Shonae Hobson.

Never before has Indigenous fashion been showcased on this scale and in this format. ‘Piinpi’ is an expression that Kanichi Thampanyu, the First Nations people from the East Cape York Peninsula, use to describe changes in the landscape across time and space.

“For me, the word Piinpi was important to use as it encapsulated a lot of what the exhibition was about. For Indigenous peoples, our knowledge of the land and seasons is culturally important as it signifies the abundance of certain bush foods, when we can travel, and when is a good time to collect traditional materials for ceremony and dance,” explains Shonae.

The exhibition is organised into four seasons and the key processes that are governed by that season. The Dry Season of fire and burn celebrates the practice of traditional weaving forms and the continuation of this practice using contemporary mediums, while the Wet Season of rain showcases the bold and vibrant pieces that often depict the colours that inundate the land following the heavy rains.

Regeneration, the season of flowers, features the work of several leading female textile artists from remote art centres, who translate their knowledge of native flora and fauna onto their fabric designs, and the Cool Season of cool winds showcases the garments of warmth and ceremony.

Lastly, the exhibition also celebrates streetwear, with a dedicated section reflecting First Nations artists living and working in the urban centres, who reclaim their Blak identity and culture through fashion. Several of the key works featured in the exhibition have been acquired by Bendigo Art Gallery, to form the beginnings of its newly launched Australian Fashion Collection.

“Bendigo Art Gallery has a celebrated, proven track-record presenting exhibitions that highlight revolutionary and historically important aspects of fashion and design, so it is only fitting that as an institution we start to build on a collection that preserves and captures key moments in Australian fashion history,” says Bendigo Art Gallery’s director, Jessica Bridgfoot.

Piinpi is open until January 17 2021. To learn more about the exhibition, head here.

bendigoregion.com.au

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