Kieren said he was looking forward to the opportunities presented by the award.
“I was very happy and surprised when I found out that I’d won,” he said.
“This will be a really good opportunity to share knowledge and broaden my network. I’m also looking forward to finding out more about what others are doing in textile design. I do travel a fair bit but have not yet been to RMIT, so this will be a new experience for me.”
Kieren’s family has been an integral part of the artistic community in the Northern Territory and beyond, and also have work placed in national collections. He says he wanted to pursue art and design from an early age.
“Since I was very young, I would go out with my Mum, Grandma and Great Grandma into the bush and to the local billabong and I would watch them weaving. We’d always be drawing and painting too. From when I was five years old I thought, ‘That’s what I’m going to do.’”
Dean of RMIT’s School of Fashion and Textiles, Professor Robyn Healy, said she was excited and honoured that RMIT will get to work closely with talented and emerging First Nation designers.
“It’s wonderful to see so much new talent in textiles is being recognised and supported through the awards. We are really proud to be involved and looking forward to sharing and exchanging knowledge and learning with Kieren and his community,” she said.
“There is so much incredible work and a fresh approach to textiles design right now - it’s an exciting time for the industry.
“NIFA gives us an excellent opportunity to weave together the established style of RMIT’s textile design and experience in the contemporary and global textile design industry, with those designers who are fresh yet steeped in the traditional practices of 65,000 years of culture.”
Healy acknowledged all nominees for the Textile Design Award and said she hoped this would be the beginning of a lasting relationship with NIFA.
“All of the finalists deserve recognition for their creations which connected cultural traditions to contemporary practices and highlighted really distinctive styles. I would like to think we will also get to work with them in the future,” she said.
“The award will allow us to share our knowledge and connect us in a way we can only imagine. It offers a coming together of textile stories and understandings, and an opportunity to explore a bright and shared future with our First Nation communities.
“RMIT has comprehensive offerings for development in textiles and fashion and very deep industry relationships-both local and global. I think a shared network is also important. We look forward to looking at what opportunities there are for emerging practitioners and supporting them as best we can.”
Manager of Ngarara Willim, Nicole Shanahan, said the prize will evolve and the first step will be to build a strong relationship and understanding of the best opportunities for supporting Kieren and his community.
“Working with Ngarara Willim, we will build the relationship first and then work out what will be really useful and how we can best assist,” she said.
“This is also a valuable opportunity for us to learn from Kieren and the practitioners in his wider community as they will bring a very different knowledge system to RMIT. We know it will be good for our current students to see different types of experiences, exchange knowledge with our First Nation communities and understand the depth that this can offer.”
About the Textile and Fashion Award Winner
Kieren Karritpul from Merrepen Arts Language and Culture Centre is a 26-year-old artist and fabric designer from Nauiyu, Daly River in the Northern Territory. As an artist he draws attention to the environment, lands and waterways around Nauiyu and actively works to educate people about his cultural heritage and that of his community.
Kieren’s designs come from what is around him; the landscape flora and fauna of his local Nauiyu. He is particularly interested in the implements used in his country, like fishnets, and the stories and myths of the area.
Working primarily with screen printed fabric, he layers with hand painting and lino blocking to make the designs kinetic. His textiles are unique, complicated and very detailed, cleverly matching layered designs with different colour combinations.
The National Indigenous Fashion Awards is sponsored by the Northern Territory Government and were presented by the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation. For further information and to view other nominees’ and category winners visit: https://nifa.com.au/
Story: Kate Milkins