top of page

Joanna Barrkman – Empowering Fabrics – Aboriginal screen-printed textiles from Australia’s Top


Empowering Fabrics – Aboriginal screen-printed textiles from Australia’s Top End

Presented by Joanna Barrkman Saturday, October 20, 2018, 10 am Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum

Admission: Free for current members of the TAC; $5 for students and members of FAMSF; $10 General Admission

This lecture will explore the phenomenon of how artists in remote Aboriginal Australian communities have embraced screen-printing on textiles as a contemporary art practice as they work in locally owned and operated art centers on their traditional lands. Each art center has developed its own style of printed fabrics as well as distinctive approaches to printed fabric production and distribution. This lecture will convey how, over the past three decades, Indigenous Australian artists have taken command of textile printing designs and technology to a point of mastery. This mastery of technique empowers artists and printers to confidently retell, transmit, revitalize and share ancient iconography, knowledge and connection to land, in contemporary and inventive ways.

The screen-printed textiles featured in this presentation originate from five art centres including:

  1. Tiwi Design, Bathurst Island, Northern Territory

  2. Jilamara Arts and Crafts, Melville Island, Northern Territory

  3. Merrepen Arts, Nauiyu, Northern Territory

  4. Injalak Arts, Gunbalanya, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory

  5. Babbarra Women’s Centre, Maningrida, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory

These textiles also demonstrate the resilience of Aboriginal Australian culture and the perseverance of Indigenous artists as they create extraordinary textile art in often harsh and remote environments using the simplest of facilities. Examples of printed textiles from public and private collections will be features.

Joanna Barrkman is the Senior Curator, Southeast Asia and Pacific Arts, Fowler Museum at UCLA. She has formerly held curatorial positions at Charles Darwin University (CDU) Art Collection and Art Gallery (Darwin), the National Gallery of Australia (Canberra) and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (Darwin). She has curated exhibitions in Australia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, New Zealand and USA. She co-curated Textiles of Timor: Island in the Woven Sea with Roy W. Hamilton in 2014, and co-edited the eponymous publication, for the Fowler Museum at UCLA.

Joanna recently complete her doctoral studies at the Australian National University (Canberra). During her candidature, she was granted an Australian Endeavour Awards Fellowship from the Australian Government. Her thesis, Return to Baguia: an ethnographic museum collection on the edge of living memory, considers the significance of museum collections to source communities based on the case study of the virtual return of the ‘Baguia Collection’, from the Museum der Kulturen, Basel, Switzerland to the community of Baguia, Timor-Leste in 2014. This Collection was acquired in 1935, by Dr Alfred Bühler, and remains the largest extant museum collection with provenance from this newly independent nation. Joanna’s Masters by Research thesis, The Influence of Indian trade and patola cloth on the textiles and ritual practices of the Atoin meto people of West Timor, Indonesia, was awarded by CDU, in 2007. She also holds graduate qualifications in Museum Studies and Indonesian Studies.


bottom of page