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Babarra Women's Centre designs to be showcased at Commonwealth Games fashion parade

06 March 2018

Story by Ingrid Johanson

The Bábbarra Women's Centre has been invited to participate in the Commonwealth Games Gold Coast 2018 (GC2018) fashion parade, one of just two art centres from the Northern Territory selected to showcase their designs to a national audience. 
For the last weeks, Bábbarra women have been busy creating everything entirely from scratch in their remote Maningrida studio space. There have been over 15 women involved in the project, including sewers, lino print and screen print artists, and a whole host of local models. 
The Bábbarra women have created the hand printed, hand sewn outfits with the stories of their old people in mind. Ingrid Johanson, manager of Bábbarra Women's Centre, explained that the women decided to name the collection "Kunkod", which translates to "paper-bark" in Kuninjku/Kune language. 
"When we began to discuss the theme of our collection, the women reminisced about the days before balanda (non-aboriginal people) had arrived in Maningrida. People would wrap themselves in paper bark torn from trees back then in lieu of clothing, for warmth and protection from sun. In creating this collection, we drew on this notion and the kimono style gowns are reminiscent of large sheaths of paper bark". 
The Kunkod collection includes seven kimonos as well as long skirts and culottes, and has been sent this week to the Commonwealth Games fashion parade.
“It makes me feel proud people will see our designs from Arnhem Land, all over Australia. We have been sewing too much for this event, and we have done this before too for the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair parade,” said head of the sewing team Lennie Goya Airra. 
Key artist from Bábbarra Deborah Wurrkdij explains, “We are thinking about our land. Our thoughts always return to our homeland. The old people, they taught us all this a long time ago”. 
All of the screen printed and lino printed fabrics tell stories for Maningrida women and cultures, and feature salt water and fresh water designs, as well as cultural stories and designs of bush foods.

“We are hoping some young women in our community come and learn sewing skills here too,” said senior sewer Phyllis Dungudja.
The event, which will draw a national audience, is called ‘Intertwined’ and is directed and curatored by Indigenous woman Grace Lillian Lee.
‘Intertwined’, which  will have 20 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander models, is a fashion and performance platform and collaboration combining dance, music, art and textiles and will take place on 14 - 15 April at Kurrawa Park. Bábbarra Women’s Centre is a women's space for screen and lino printing as well as sewing. 
Bábbarra is supported by CDP and owned by Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation.