We are thrilled to introduce our Brisbane/Meanjin Indigenous Program Recipient, Ikuntji Artists. You may remember their vibrant stall from our AW22 Market, where we first welcomed them to our creative community, and now we welcome them back again to showcase Aboriginal art in forms such as textiles, jewellery, fashion collections and more.
Ikuntji Artists is a member-based, not-for-profit Aboriginal art centre. It is situated in the remote Aboriginal community of Haasts Bluff (Ikuntji), in the Northern Territory, with a total population of 150 people. Get to know more about this incredible corporation before discovering their work in person at The Finders Keepers Brisbane/Meanjin Market this 2-4 September at the Exhibition Building, Brisbane Showgrounds.
Can you tell us about the artists you currently work with and how are they selected?
As an Aboriginal corporation, Ikuntji Artists has a board of Indigenous directors, all living and working locally and a member base of artists. Ikuntji Artists is founded on community and inclusion, supporting artists in all stages of their careers, from emerging to established. As an Aboriginal art centre, Ikuntji Artists facilitates the production of contemporary and authentic Aboriginal art, the ethical sale of these artworks and the investment in cultural projects and activities. The art centre focuses on creating cultural and economic sustainability for artists in Haasts Bluff Community and its surrounds. Ikuntji Artists is the only Aboriginal-owned business in the Haasts Bluff community that is a key employer of local Indigenous people.
Where do the artists find inspiration?
The artistic repertoire of Ikuntji Artists is diverse and includes, for example, naive and highly abstract paintings told by each artist in their signature style. The artists draw inspiration from their personal ngurra (country) and Tjukurrpa (Dreaming). They interpret the ancestral stories by using traditional symbols, icons and motifs. Throughout the 30 years of its existence, the art movement in Ikuntji has flourished and constantly left its mark in the fine art world. At the same time, the art centre has been the community’s cultural hub, maintaining, reinforcing and reinvigorating cultural practices through art-making.
How long does an artwork typically take to complete?
All of our textiles are designed and drawn by hand by our artists, which are then created into repeat designs for fabric. The designs are then printed by hand using traditional silk screen techniques by our partners, Publisher Textiles. Each fabric length is printed in small batches and heat set for longevity. Over the last few years, Ikuntji Artists have been proud to work with some incredible partners, creating many collaborative collections of ethically made fashion and accessories that feature our Ikuntji Textiles range. This includes our clothing range with Magpie Goose and Publisher Textiles, both of which are made in small-scale batches in Australia from our hand-printed fabrics. Ikuntji Artists have also teamed up with Flying Fox Fabrics to bring out a collection of beautiful and ethically made bags and accessories, all featuring fabrics from Ikuntji Textiles. The bags are made by Fairtrade Cambodian Artisans, working with Women for Women, Villageworks and Kravan House. From the drawing of designs to the final piece of clothing or accessory, we are committed to hand-made, slow fashion that elevates the artists at every stage.
Kelly Dixon in the studio printing ‘Watiya Tjuta’ by Mitjili Napurrula photo by Ikuntji Artists Lisa Multa working on her painting, ‘Tali at Kungkayunti’, photo by Ikuntji Artists
What is the meaning behind the name Ikuntji?
IIkuntji is the name of the cliff face on Mereenie bluff, South of Haasts Bluff. The area has long been an important meeting place, with many sacred sites in the region.
How has the business evolved over the last two years during the pandemic?
As a member-based, not-for-profit corporation, the economic sustainability and preservation of the art centre are vital to the continuation of people’s artistic practice and the community. As a remote art centre, Ikuntji Artists has been severely impacted by the economic and practical pandemic, which has created new challenges and opportunities for the business to grow. During the pandemic, the temporary closure of remote communities saw the art centre forced to close its doors for months, meaning that artists could not paint in the studio, and the office and gallery were closed. The pandemic also greatly impacted local and international tourism and events such as art fairs, art events, markets and on-site gallery visits. To adapt to this, the art centre staff have focused on expanding the online side of the business and working on ongoing and sustainable projects with artists and the community.
Kelly Dixon with our bag & accessories collection, featuring her mother’s designs. Sheraldeen Apati Marshall is wearing Tali Audrey top and Womens Business Marsha Pants. Photo by Christian Koch
Can you share some interesting history about Ikuntji Artists?
Ikuntji Artists was the first art centre established by women in the Western Desert Art Movement. In the 1980s, women began painting in Haasts Bluff in the aged care facility. Their husbands and fathers had instructed them and often assisted them in completing their paintings. By the early 1990s, these women artists decided to pursue setting up their own art centre. This became the first time women could get paid for their own art directly; before this, only men were paid.
What can we expect from your stall at this event?
We are excited to see you all at the Finders Keepers Spring/Summer Meanjin (Brisbane) Markets this year, where we will have our beautiful collection of bags, fabric lengths, clothes and screen-printed t-shirts.