Stories of country and culture are being shared through the release of the Tiwi Collection, a fashion line created by women from the Tiwi Islands in collaboration with NORTH.

Senior Indigenous artists from Munupi, Jilamara and Ngaruwanajirri Arts Centres, based in Pirlangimpi, Milikapiti and Wurrumiyanga across the Tiwi Islands, painted their unique designs and printed them onto the ethical and sustainable textiles that form the new collection.

“I was shocked when [NORTH] told me my design was going to be [featured],” said Bernadette Mungatopi, a Pirlangimpi woman who paints at both Munupi and Jilamara Arts Centres.

“I wanted to make my design look good, and not only that, make my family feel proud and my kids as well so that way they can learn from my idea.”

The name of Ms Mungatopi’s design is Winga, a Tiwi word for ‘patterns of the sea’. Ms Mungatopi thought of this story when she made ochre colours to paint her design.

“We get the white colour from the beach, sort of like a clay, and the yellow we get from the highway, it’s on the road somewhere,” Ms Mungatopi said.

“We burn the yellow rock and turn it into red [paint], and the black we get from a dye somewhere in the bush. Somewhere in the jungle, they have to dig for it.”

Ms Mungatopi said she wants younger generations to learn how to make these colours and create traditional Indigenous art.

This is NORTH’s sixth collaboration with remote arts centres. The not-for-profit works with remote Indigenous communities to grow economic strength and community pride.

Founder of NORTH Crystal Thomas said fashion is an emerging industry for Indigenous communities.

“Textile [design] in remote Indigenous communities is a new medium for artists to share their culture and it’s a really good way to develop an income stream and engage with the contemporary Australian design world,” Ms Thomas said.

“The project has created creative and economic opportunities for the 12 Tiwi artists and their greater families and the communities.”

Ms Thomas said all artists involved with the Tiwi Collection are established artists in their own right, however fashion is just another area they are branching into through collaboration with NORTH.

“[It raises] the profiles of participating artists by introducing Tiwi designs to a new landscape,” Ms Thomas said.

On May 11th, NORTH and the Tiwi Collection artists are having a launch party in Darwin for the collection.

“[It will give] the artists and their communities the opportunity to experience the excitement and pride of the collection,” Ms Thomas said.

Ms Mungatopi said she is excited knowing that people will soon be wearing her art.

“I can’t wait for people to wear my design, because I’ll be wearing the design when I go [to] the launch,” Ms Mungatopi said.

“Show it off to other Indigenous people around the world.”

By Hannah Cross