Tuesday, 20 March 2012

New York catwalk: walking in the caves of Australia?

Fashion, fashion, fashion...who doesn’t like a pretty piece of garment? I do, I do – guilty on all accounts.
Left: guilty hands?!

One of the things that fascinate me the most is to see people wearing traditional cloth – I think that I mentioned that in one of my posts when referring to graduation day and seen my students’ parents wearing traditional cloth (what a proud moment). Now, the matter here today is when some of these traditional garments and arts become fashion, will I wear it? To be honest I do not know, will I be disrespectful? oi! I do not like that idea, but as said before, I am a fashionable person and I cannot say that I will not be tempted.

Anyways all of these thoughts came due to the news that in the recent New York Fashion Week two young designers (behind the label Rodarte) showed in their garments Australian Aboriginal art. They claimed that they have never been to Australia but have been inspired by books and other resources. They indeed do not denied where their inspiration came from assuring that the patterns referenced aboriginal art and that the hand prints were inspired by ancient cave paintings.

From pretty designs to theft
Megan Davis, the academic who heads up the UNSW Indigenous Law Centre and a member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, noted that “the prints were an insensitive theft of her Australian Aboriginal culture.” She continues “It is completely insensitive to Aboriginal art and spirituality and land and how they are inextricably linked”. She did not stop here, mentioning that she “found the designs offensive”. In this regards she mentioned that there is the need to bear in mind that these people usually live in poverty and the “thought of seeing women walking around in this particular ready-to-wear collection sickens me. Because it is my culture and it is where I come from”.

From theft to License agreements
Rodarte responded to this enquiry by saying the following:
“We deeply respect and admire the work of other artists. Through the appropriate channels, we licensed the Aboriginal artwork that influenced prints in our collection. As a result, the artists will share in proceeds of the pieces inspired by their work.”

The source of the news indicated that they check with the Aboriginal Artists' Agency which represents Papunya Tula Artists in this matter, and the information was confirmed – Rodarte do have a licence.

This news today was shared by Robyn Ayres, Executive Director @ Arts Law Centre of Australia. She mentioned “Arts Law’s Artist in the Black service is proposing to develop some template documents for ethical collaborations between designers and Indigenous artists whereby guidance is provided in relation to protocols and best practice in this area.” I truly believe that this is an excellent idea and hopefully we will hear more about this in the near future.

My final thought: Will I wear it? I think that I will be killing two birds with one stone: being in fashion and knowing that some of the money will go to the aboriginal. Will I have the money to buy it? well, that is another story.

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