With Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) just a few short weeks away, these photos give a taste of what’s to come at the fashion performance – showcasing as they do the outfits of the Djunngaal Yarrabah Elders Group.
‘Djungaal’ is a Gunggandji word that means the action and sound of hitting water, and it’s also closely connected to a special ceremony that takes place at the medicine water “Yealamucka” – a healing place in Yarrabah. Gwen Schrieber, who coordinates the Djunngaal Yarrabah Elders group, says their perspectives are founded upon interconnectedness and the utmost respect for culture and each other.
When it came to their contribution to the CIAF fashion performance, the group were keen to continue the practice of sewing dresses as learned in the ‘Mission days’ of the Aboriginal Protection Act. With this in mind, the group created three dresses – an everyday-wear dormitory dress, a church service dress and a bag dress, which was a punishment dress made from potato sack bags. The collection, named ‘ByDaBell’, tells their story of their life in the dormitory, and shows a continuation of history and culture throughout a heavily burdened and oppressive time in Australia’s history.
This group of strong and resilient women harbour a vast knowledge about their environment and the ecological relationships within it, as well as their community, its history and their children future within it. A visit to the group on any normal day can find them sewing and crafting, painting and teaching language, making fresh bread, weaving or just yarning and drinking tea. The women currently sew from their hub in Yarrabah, and their collection can be seen alongside many others at the upcoming Cairns Indigenous Art Fair Fashion Performance.