• Gabriel from Injalak Arts in his studio, showing off his thong design (Mimihs). (Injalak Arts / Pozible.)Source: Injalak Arts / Pozible.
"There are a stack of companies in Australia that put Indigenous Australian designs or imitations on unauthorised products. It's been a source of pain and insult for Indigenous Australians because it's exploiting culture and disrespectful. We decided we needed to offer a clear, ethical alternative."
By
Chloe Sargeant

11 Apr 2017 - 4:10 PM  UPDATED 11 Apr 2017 - 4:10 PM

Aboriginal artists from Injalak Arts in the Northern Territory are now working with ethical footwear company Etiko in order to create ethically-produced thongs with Aboriginal designs.

Injalak Arts are a 100 per cent Aboriginal owned non-profit artist cooperative, based in Gunbalanya, West Arnhem Land. They have 200 artists in the group, who create paintings, screen-printing for fabrics, and now - designs for thongs. Or, as they call it: affordable, Aboriginal-designed 'foot art'. 

The group has created a Pozible campaign to crowdfund the initial production of the thongs. The campaign - which hopes to reach $25,000 - will go towards the payment for the fair trade footwear, plus cash flow cycle for the art centre, which includes payment for the Aboriginal artists, fabric printers and members of the collective, purchase of art materials and fabric, and bills like electricity, insurance, administration and transport. 

Each of the three artists who design the thongs - Graham, Gabriel and Benson (Isaiah) - are stalwarts of Injalak Arts. Gabriel and Benson co-founded the art centre, and Graham (whose profile states he also loves obscure heavy metal bands and Japanese anime) is a talented artist who has been shortlisted in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards numerous times.

On the Pozible campaign page, Injalak Arts notes that a major reason that they decided to produce the thongs was due to the large amount of 'fake art' being released - mass-produced, often sweatshop-made clothing and art with rip-off Aboriginal designs on them. 

"There's a heap of stuff out there that looks Aboriginal-ish but is probably a rip-off design (no royalties paid and possibly a non-Indigenous designer/artist made the design) and/or made in a sweatshop. There are a stack of companies in Australia that put Indigenous Australian designs or imitations on unauthorised products. Often they are cheap and nasty and nearly always made overseas in dubious situations. It's been a source of pain and insult for Indigenous Australians because it's exploiting culture and disrespectful," the site reads.

The Indigenous Art Code has created a campaign called 'Fake Art Harms Culture' about this topic, something that the Injalak Arts centre tackles consistently. Their campaign page states, "We don't want to make people afraid to buy anything at all - we decided we needed to offer a clear, ethical alternative: INJALAK ARTS THONGS."

Etiko, the label Injalak has collaborated with, is a Melbourne-based company that champions fair trade and ethical production above all else. The thongs are being created in a fair trade factory in India. 

All of Etiko's thongs are made wholly from a mix of natural and recycled rubber, instead of the EVA / PVC mix that often comprises unethically produced thongs.

The Pozible campaign offers other bags, clothing and homewares - and the thongs, obviously - from Injalak Arts as a reward for donations. The three thong designs, 'Mimih', 'Stone Country Animals', and 'Ngalmangiyi (Long-necked Turtle)' appear on several of the items, as do other beautiful designs by the three talented artists. 

You can take a look at the Pozible campaign for the Injalak Arts x Etiko thongs HERE.

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