Piinpi tells the story of contemporary Indigenous Fashion

Grace Rosendale, 'Seed Pods Top and Pant', 2019, Magnolia medium.

Showcasing Australia’s first major survey of contemporary Indigenous textiles and fashion, exhibition Piinpi will open at Bendigo Art Gallery this Thursday 12 November. The exhibition opening follows the easing of restrictions in regional Victoria.

Considered an exhibition of historical significance, the exhibition’s Bendigo showing will be followed by an extended season at the National Museum of Australia.

“Piinpi marks a significant moment in time in Australia’s cultural history – the hailing of a unique, cultural movement which is fast gaining momentum in this country and Internationally. The fact that this exhibition, created by Bendigo Art Gallery, will travel to our national museum in Canberra following the Bendigo season reinforces to us just how powerful this exhibition is – a must see for every Australian.

Bendigo Art Gallery Director Jessica Bridgfoot said she was thrilled to open Bendigo Art Gallery’s doors to launch Piinpi, and to offer free entry to the exhibition to ensure as many people experience it as possible.

“We have an established history of presenting International fashion exhibitions at Bendigo Art Gallery, and for over a decade we had been celebrating, importing and telling stories from other cultures. I am so excited to shine a light on a significant cultural fashion movement blossoming here in Australia – a design movement that is Indigenous led, industrious, innovative and has the potential to redefine the way the world engages with Indigenous Australian culture and history - through fashion,” Ms Bridgfoot said.

Featuring the work of Indigenous artists and designers from the inner city to remote desert art centres, Piinpi shines a light on Australia’s leading First Nations creatives.

Curated by Bendigo Art Gallery’s First Nations Curator, Kaantju woman Shonae Hobson, the exhibition brings together works by seventy designers, artists and makers, including Grace Lillian Lee, Lyn-Al Young, Maree Clarke, Lisa Waup x Verner, Hopevale Arts & Culture Centre, Lorraine Connelly-Northey, MAARA Collective, the Yarrenyty Arltere Artists, AARLI Fashion, LORE and many more.

The word Piinpi is an expression that Kanichi Thampanyu (First Nations people from the East Cape York Peninsula) use to describe changes in the landscape across time and space. The exhibition offers a survey of contemporary First Nations fashion, and explores the concept of Indigenous seasons and the way understandings of Country and culture are reflected in and inspire contemporary textile and fashion design.

Some of the many highlights include:

  • Four new commissions by Gunai, Wiradjuri, Gunditjmara and Yorta Yorta woman Lyn-Al Young which respond to the theme of Indigenous seasons. Handpainted using ancient techniques, the collection captures the subtle transformations of Young’s Country overtime.

  • A possum skin cloak made by Dja Dja Wurrung/Yorta Yorta Elder Rodney Carter. The work showcases the continued resilience of the Dja Dja Wurring people from Central Victoria who are revitalising their cultural traditions through powerful forms of artistic expression.

  • Woven pandanus hats and accessories created by Margaret Malibirr, Mary Dhapalany and Evonne Munuyngu from Bula’Bula Arts in East Arnhem land in collaboration with Yuwaalaraay woman Julie Shaw, creator of the luxury resort-wear line, MAARA Collective. The pieces take inspiration from the Australian landscape, and were a major hit at the Country to Couture fashion performance at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair in 2019.

  • Several highly sculptured pieces by Grace Lillian Lee, including A weave of reflection 2018. Grace is a descendant of the Meriam Mir people of the Eastern Islands of the Torres Strait, and creates wearable art pieces using techniques taught to her by artist Uncle Ken Thaiday.

“Indigenous fashion is not a ‘trend’ but an important movement that has put Indigenous voices and artistic expression at the centre of the global fashion agenda,” curator Shonae Hobson said. “These pioneering artists and makers are carving the future of fashion and design in Australia and leading important conversations about ethical and sustainable practices.

Bernadette Watt, 'Golden Dress', 2019

“Contemporary Indigenous fashion is celebrated for its rich storytelling and avant-garde aesthetic and the fusion of old and new materials and techniques. Woven into the fabric of this show is a shared vision for storytelling, continuation of cultural practices and optimism for the future,” Ms Hobson said.

Key works featured in the exhibition have been acquired by Bendigo Art Gallery and will form the beginnings of the Australian Fashion Collection, a new collection focus for the gallery.

Don't miss out on this new exhibition, Piinpi: Contemporary Indigenous Fashion and be sure to book your spot!


Dates: Bendigo Art Gallery (12 November, 2020 – 17 January, 2021), National Museum of Australia (18 February – 8 August, 2021)

Admission: Free but bookings essential.

Book here!