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Ikuntji show receives standing ovation at Australian Fashion Week

Emma Ruben -

In an Australian Fashion Week first, Ikuntji Artists travelled from the remote town of Haasts Bluff to become the first Aboriginal art centre to show at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week. 

Known for their bright prints embodied on tasteful, formal dresses, garments by the Ikuntji Artists have been worn by numerous stars such as singer Jessica Mauboy, model Sené Maluwapi and more recently presenter Bianca Hunt during I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. 

The runway began with a set design in collaboration with BESS Paddington featuring red desert sand and seasonal natives from the Western Desert such as pink and yellow flowering gum, princess gum and kangaroo grass. 

Zanthe Evans models Ikuntji Artists during AAFW. (Image: Rob Hookey)
Zanthe Evans models Ikuntji Artists during AAFW. (Image: Rob Hookey)
Cindy Rostron models Ikuntji during AAFW. (Image: Rob Hookey)
Cindy Rostron models Ikuntji during AAFW. (Image: Rob Hookey)

The show was a community-led initiative between the artists of Ikuntji and Yorta Yorta, Gomeroi and Wiradjuri creative director Ana Kesha.

Each piece on the runway paid homage to the artists' personal and familial Tjukurrpa (dreaming). 

The audience was in for a surprise when Malyangapa and Barkindji rapper Barkaa (Chloe Quayle) made her way down the runway. 

BARKAA models Ikuntji during AAFW. (Image: Rob Hookey)
BARKAA models Ikuntji during AAFW. (Image: Rob Hookey)
Elaine 'Aunty Vogue' George in Ikuntji for AAFW. (Image: Rob Hookey)
Elaine 'Aunty Vogue' George in Ikuntji for AAFW. (Image: Rob Hookey)

Ikuntji Artists Rita Djana, Sheryldeen Marshall and Hayley Dodd also took to the runway to strut their stuff. 

Dodd's contribution to prints on the runway includes inspiration drawn from her grandmother's Country. 

She said she remembers visiting Dalhousie Hot Springs when she was a child and remembers it as an oasis in the middle of the desert.

"(The prints) are waterholes and they all connect," she said.

"But then they look separate from ground from an airplane or helicopter but they all connect and run like streams.

"(The hot springs) are always hot. It's just bubbling out of control."

Ikuntji artists Sheryldeen Marshall, Hayley Dodd and Rita Djana on the runway during AAFW. (Image: Rob Hookey)
Ikuntji artists Sheryldeen Marshall, Hayley Dodd and Rita Djana on the runway during AAFW. (Image: Rob Hookey)

Artist Keturah Zimran also drew inspiration from her grandmother's Country. The last time she was there was eight years ago. 

"I've been there a long time ago," she said.

"It's a long way from Haasts Bluff."

For Ikuntji Artists manager Doctor Chrischona Schmidt, the collection not only showcases the artworks but is a bridge between traditional art and contemporary fashion.

"The collection's main function is to inspire people to connect with the art and to purchase fabric to create garments or homeware of their own," she said.

The show concluded with the models standing on the outskirts of the runway as the artists alongside Schmidt and Keshan made their way down.

Most attendees had a tear in their eye, as the Ikuntji Artists received a whopping round of applause and a standing ovation for their first-ever solo fashion week show.

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