A guide to Aboriginal art and fashion in the Top End

aboriginal art
Art from a pop-up sale for Tiwi Islands Art Centres Jilamara Arts and Munupi Aboriginal Arts

It’s NAIDOC week! A week to learn about the land on which we live, and to celebrate the world’s oldest continuous culture – Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders. Certainly a week to buy aboriginal art and fashion!

The theme this year is Always Was, Always Will Be – and as we come to the end of the week we want to encourage people to continue to celebrate the culture and achievements of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people in the Top End, through purchasing from Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander owned businesses not only this week – but all year round.

For many remote communities in particular, art and fashion is not only a major source of income, but a very important vehicle in bridging the gap – so through purchasing artwork from these artists and businesses, you are supporting people and remote communities that may not have the same opportunities as those living in big cities.

See below for a small selection of some of the fantastic Aboriginal art and fashion businesses you can buy from in the Top End – all online stores/websites are linked in the titles – but this is only the tip of the iceberg!

And wherever you are, if you can’t buy directly from the artist and need to learn more about an art centre or where the art comes from, it’s a good idea to see if they’re part of the Indigenous Art Code! There are also peak body organisations representing hundreds of these ethically operated businesses across the country; Arnhem, Northern and Kimberley Artists (ANKA), Aboriginal Art Centre Hub of WA (AACHWA), Desart (Aboriginal Art Centres from Central Australia) and the Indigenous Art Centre Alliance supporting Far North Queensland Art Centres (IACA).

ART

Marrawuddi Gallery

Marrawuddi Gallery has recently re-opened in the old Jabiru Bakery, and is an absolute MUST when visiting the world-heritage listed Kakadu National Park.

The gallery is not just a gallery – it’s a complete art space, and they do a great coffee too! The gallery stocks a diverse range of Kakadu and West Arnhem art including works on paper, screen prints, bark paintings, and fibre art including woven pandanus floor mats, baskets, bags and jewellery.

Marrawuddi Gallery is owned and operated by the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents Aboriginal traditional owners in Kakadu National Park and West Arnhem Land.

Jilamara

Jilamara Arts and Craft is located at Milikapiti on Melville Island. The artists at Jilamara are known and celebrated for the use of natural ochres in painting, tungas (ceremonial bark bags), tutini poles and carvings.

Jilamara artists often hold pop-up sales, and continue to participate in an ongoing program of commercial and public gallery exhibitions, resulting in their representation in many major collections.

Munupi Arts and Crafts

Tiwi life and it’s culture are celebrated by the artists of Pirlangimpi on Melville Island. Drawing inspiration from their lush natural environment and Tiwi creation stories, Munupi’s artists are highly regarded for their carvings, ochre paintings, ceramics and printmaking. 

Munupi Arts and Crafts Association assists with the development and promotion of Tiwi art to local, national and international audiences – they’ve got a pop-up this weekend (12-15th Nov) in the Vic Arcade in Darwin, so make sure you check that out!

Aboriginal Bush Traders

Aboriginal Bush Traders is an amazing cultural shop and CBD cafe that sells ethically sourced and sustainable products to support local communities in and around the NT.

Located at Lyons Cottage on Esplanade, there is a bushfood inspired café, next to the gallery and retail space, which stocks a great range of gifts as we come up to Christmas!

Durrmu Arts

Located in Peppimenarti, 300km south west of Darwin, The fibre artists from Durrmu Arts are renowned for vibrant and original Yerrgi (pandanus) and Merrepen (sand palm) weavings, including Warrgadi (string dilly bags), Wupun (baskets), Walipan (string fish nets) and stunning Sun Mats!

Djilpin Arts 

Around 100kms from Katherine, Djilpin Arts is a complete cultural precinct where visitors can engage with local people, experience traditional culture, purchase art and stay in award-winning accommodation. The Gallery stocks an incredible range of art, jewellery and textiles, all for purchase.

FASHION / TEXTILES

House Of Darwin

If you’re looking for a range of cool t-shirts, hats and even a collab with Budgy Smugglers – look no further than House of Darwin. The clothing brand is an aboriginal owned social enterprise that reinvests their profits back into social programs in remote Indigenous communities.

Their custom prints are designed by various artists and reflect many aspects of NT life – existing with the mission to inspire, educate and cultivate change within the two worlds of Australia. 

House Of Darwin will be featuring at the Warlu X NORTH Pop Up from the 14th Nov – 28th of November. The Pop-Up will be open Saturdays 8am – 2pm, and Mon-Fri 9am – 4pm, and you can find it at 1/3 Vickers Street at Parap Village!

Bima Wear

Bima Wear is a women’s fabric printmaking workshop based at Nguiu, Bathurst Island. Bima Wear artists produce amazing fabric prints and garments in bright & bold designs. The Bima women also produce canvas paintings and fine art prints on paper. 

Babbarra Designs

Bábbarra Women’s Centre is made up of women from the Maningrida region, who design and hand-print textiles telling the ancestral stories of Arnhem Land country and cultures.

You can buy Bábbarra Designs unique artisan fabrics and hand-sewn items online, or from one of the following fabulous stores in Darwin; Aboriginal Bush Traders, Nomad Gallery, Provenance Arts, Raw Cloth, and Starwin Social Enterprise.

Liandra Swim

Liandra Swim is a beautiful printed swimwear brand born here in the Northern Territory, that fuses Aboriginal Australian Culture and storytelling with designer swimwear – all of the bikini’s are sold separately, so we love the ability to mix-n-match styles, prints and sizes!

Injalak Arts

Visitors to Arnhem Land (with a permit!) must go into Injalak arts in Gunbalanya! A breath-takingly scenic location, surrounded by floodplains and escarpments – the arts centre is nearby Injalak Hill, one of the richest rock art sites in the world.

Inspired by a 50,000-year-old rock art tradition, there are over 300 artists and members that produce the diverse range of works for Injalak Arts. They do paintings and art – but we LOVE their screen-printed fabric, and their earrings!

NORTH

While NORTH isn’t an Aboriginal-owned business – they are a non-for-profit organisation, governed by Indigenous & non-Indigenous board members.

They work with remote community art centres to develop beautiful, high-quality products featuring fabric designed by remote Indigenous artists and revenue from sales is directed immediately back into the development of creative opportunities; responsive to the ideas and requests of the artists. 

Their pieces are unique & beautiful – you can find NORTH at the Warlu X NORTH Pop Up from the 14th Nov – 28th of November at 1/3 Vickers Street at Parap Village – and also instore at Lulu & Daw!

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