by Nina Fitzgerald and Ellie Meyer

Image: North Tiwi Strong Womens Collection featuring textile design by Michelle Woody of Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association. Photo courtesy of North.

NIFA | Textile Design Award

In the lead up to the inaugural NIFA, we’ll be delving into each of the six award categories, and introducing you to some of the unique talent of Australia’s leading First Nations designers, creatives  and artists! Next up, the Textile Design Award, celebrating designs of woven, knitted or other textile constructions as well as dyed, printed or surface ornamented textiles.

An exploration of ancient spirituality, culture and law in contemporary forms. 

Textile designs hold deep meaning, and are a medium which pushes the boundaries of contemporary First Nations cultures. There is freedom to textile design, seen in the use of the vibrant colours, and new expressions of old stories, which enable artists to stretch their imagination. 

First Nations textile design has a long history in Australia, with Aboriginal people producing textiles since at least the mid 50’s. Today we are seeing a re-emergence of textile design, with excitement and vibrancy!

From block and screen printing, to hand painting and bush dyes, we’re seeing a merging of traditional techniques with innovative experimentations, and a design approach heavily informed by a deep respect for the environment.

This year’s panel of judges will be considering each nominee based on; design quality and originality, cultural advancement and expression, textile quality, print, dye or surface ornamentation quality (where applicable), innovation, and environmental and social contribution.

“I was personally blown away by some of the techniques and approaches the artists have taken. The works in this category really demonstrate artistic skill and the intricacy of some of the design is mindblowing. Importantly, the thread of cultural storytelling is woven throughout which makes the works even more powerful.”

Yatu Widders-Hunt
Senior Consultant at Cox Inall Ridgeway
Founder @ausindigenousfashion
NIFA 2020 Judge


The prize for this category includes technical and design training either in community, at place of work, in an education institution, industry organisation, or a combination of these, with an allowance for travel and materials.


Textile Design Nominees


Lillardia Allirra Briggs-Houston from Ngarru Miimi

Lillardia Allirra Briggs-Houston is a Wiradjuri Yorta Yorta Gangulu woman. She uses textile design and fashion to tell her stories and the oral histories left to her from her grandparents. Using all her own artwork, she blocks or screen prints onto fabric on Wiradjuri country. Wood Carving is a particular connecting link for Lillardya. She reflects: “I’m surrounded by my grandfather’s carved trees on country. All my work takes so much time but it is my way of respecting and protecting my culture and ancestors”.

Rukaji Designs from Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency

Rukaji Designs is a family business led by matriarch Eva Nargoodah and her eldest daughter Ivy, based in Jimbalakudunj Community in the Fitzroy Valley, West Kimberley, WA. The Nargoodah family are passionate creators and cultural keepers, having developed their textile designs over many years, constantly experimenting with bush medicines, dyes and pattern development, to create stunning textiles. Every piece is original, created by hand without chemicals, and has its own unique design and dye profile. Rukaji are proud to keep the cultural practices that surround bush medicines and dyes alive and well, teaching their children and broader community about these essential practises.

Kieren Karritpul from Merrepen Arts Language & Culture

Kieren Karritpul is a 26-year-old artist and fabric designer from Nauiyu, Daly River. 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.

Dymphna Kerinauia, Kaye Brown, Michelle Woody, Nina Lydwina Puruntatameri, Cornelia Tipuamantumirri, and Bernadette Mungatopi from Munupi Association Arts and Crafts Association, Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association & Ngaruwanajirri Arts

Nestled on the shores of the Tiwi Islands, off the coast of Darwin, these six female artists female artists from Munupi, Jilamara and Ngaruwanajirri Art Centres share stories of their connection to country through Jilamara (design). Working collaboratively with North, the women developed beautiful, high-quality fabric to feature in the Tiwi Strong Womens Collection. Each artist brings a different artistic background to the collection, evident in the detail and vibrancy of the textile design, as well as the meanings behind them. Their work takes  inspiration from being on country in the Tiwi Islands, Japarra, the moon, Japalinga, the stars, the sun, bush tucker and hunting.

Ikuntji Artists

Ikuntji Artists were proudly the first Art Centre in the Western Desert to release a textile collection, with their 2019 collection featuring designs from established artists; Alice Nampitjinpa, Mavis Nampitjinpa Marks, and Mitjili Napurrula. Famous for their bold colour choice, decisive brush strokes, and rich cultural storytelling, each design tells a story – of people, place and culture. The artists draw their inspiration from their personal Ngurra (country) and Tjukurrpa (Dreaming), with designs unique to Central Australia, particularly the sandhills, waterholes, native trees, jagged mountains and sandy plains of the West Macdonnell Ranges. Working with high quality tencel linen and trapper cotton drill, the collection of bold evocative prints and vibrant colours have been screen-printed by hand using traditional techniques. 

Please note that artist Mitjili Napurrula, whose work is included in this nomination, has passed away.

Selina Nadjowh from Injalak Arts Centre

Selina Nadjowh is a weaver and painter at Injalak Arts Centre, known for the formal beauty of her work, with delicate and finely balanced compositions. Selina continues to connect with her culture and community through her practice, expressing traditional motifs through screen printing. She has worked with Albertini Couture in a fashion collaboration giving cultural expression to couture pieces with originality and innovation. Her design ‘Sugar Glider’ was used in an Albertini couture gown, the result of a screen printing workshop held at the Art Centre in 2011.



This year’s winner will be announced during the inaugural National Indigenous Fashion Awards (aka NIFA), and broadcast LIVE through the NITV social channels on 5 August! 

To stay updated, be sure to follow @indigenousfashionprojects on Instagram and sign up to the DAAFF newsletter. 


Image Credits

  • Selina Nadjowh, Lambalk (sugarglider) print, Photo courtesy of Injalak Arts & Crafts.
  • North Tiwi Strong Womens Collection featuring textile design by Dymphna Kerinauia of Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association. Photo courtesy of North.
  • Margaret Albert and Lynley Nargoodah wearing Rukaji scarves, and Scarf selection showcasing variations in dyes and pattern techniques created by Rukaji Designs. Photo Courtesy Mangkaja Arts.
  • Lillardia Allirra Briggs-Houston, Sandhills green colour way. Photo courtesy of Ngarru Miimi.
  • Kieren Karritpul, Merrepen Arts Language and Culture, Photo courtesy of Merrepen Arts Language and Culture.
  • Ikuntji Artists, Tjilkamata Rockhole Fabric by Alice Nampitjinpa Dixon. Photo by Ikuntji Artists.
  • Banner Image | North Tiwi Strong Womens Collection featuring textile design by Michelle Woody of Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association. Photo courtesy of North. Nomination is for Munupi Association Arts and Crafts Association, Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association & Ngaruwanajirri Arts.