History

Textiles in Community

There is a long and rich history of textile production in north Australian Indigenous communities, going back in the Northern Territory at least to 1969, when printing on textiles started at Tiwi Design and Bima Wear on Bathurst Island. Other important fabric printing initiatives commenced in the 1980’s, including at Injalak Arts in Gunbalanya, Merrepen Arts in Daly River and Babbarra Women’s Centre in Maningrida.

It is notable that the current wave of regeneration of fabric printing in north Australia is taking place inside Art Centres. This can in part be seen as a response to the international downturn in the fine arts market –stimulating exploration of different mediums and markets. Working in fabric may also be thought of as a natural progression for artists already working in other mediums. Inherited ‘patterns and designs’ form the most primary element of the art of many contemporary Indigenous artists whose work is informed by traditional knowledge. Patterns and designs which were traditionally used in various forms – for example painted on bodies or carved on objects – do not have an intrinsic link to any one medium once they are deployed in contemporary art and design production. 

Published by the Association of Northern Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists (ANKAAA)