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Month-long Design Canberra festival kicks off alongside NAIDOC Week

Month-long Design Canberra festival kicks off alongside NAIDOC Week


Presented by non-profit organisation Craft ACT, the Design Canberra festival is on now in the nation’s capital until November 29. The first week of this year’s dynamic program has coincided with NAIDOC Week (November 8–15), a celebration of the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. To recognise that First Nations people have occupied and cared for the Australian continent for over 65,000 years, the theme for NAIDOC Week this year is ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’, a poignant message alongside the festival’s overarching theme ‘Care’.

More than 200 events, exhibitions, talks, tours, collaborations, artist studios and open homes will be activated across the Design Canberra calendar, offering the opportunity for visitors and locals to join together and acknowledge emerging and established art, design and architecture talent from across the country.

Here are five standout moments to add to your visit to Canberra, a city united by world-class design during the month of November.

Design Canberra festival
Design Canberra festival
Selected works from James Tylor’s exhibition ‘From An Untouched Landscape’.

From An Untouched Landscape

Multi-disciplinary visual artist James Tylor uses his exhibition ‘From an Untouched Landscape’ at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space to shine the spotlight on the absence of Aboriginal culture within the broader Australian landscape and how this phenomenon is a direct result of the impact of European colonisation.   

Aidan Hartshorn (Walgalu People of the Gurmal Nation) has penned a compelling essay to coincide with James’ exhibition: “This multi-faceted series serve as a photographic self-portrait for Tylor, while also highlighting the missing or removed elements of people and culture from within the landscapes,” he writes. “Hauntingly, these captured moments provide a point of connection for other Aboriginal people who identify with the disrupted Imagery and historical premise behind the series”.

Read more about the exhibition here.

Design Canberra festival
Artwork projections on the National Carillon in Canberra.

Art Illuminations

During NAIDOC Week, a spectacular curation of Indigenous artworks are to be projected onto the National Carillon, situated on Aspen Island in Lake Burley Griffin. The vibrant works of 25 Indigenous artists will come to life after nightfall, expressing Aboriginal stories and culture. The featured artworks have been selected from over 150 artists participating in the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) Online Indigenous Art Market. The projections for the festival were curated by AIATSIS with assistance from The Electric Canvas.

Find out more here.

Design Canberra festival
‘For Our Country’ at The Australian War Memorial.

For Our Country

The ‘For Our Country’ pavilion – a collaboration between Melbourne-based Edition Office architects and Kudjala/Gangalu artist Daniel Boyd – won the Nicholas Murcutt Award for Small Project Architecture at the 2020 National Architecture Awards. ‘For Our Country’ commemorates the military service of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and occupies a permanent, prominent position in the Sculpture Garden at The Australian War Memorial.

Visit The Australian War Memorial here.

Design Canberra festival
Design Canberra festival
Works by Larrakia, Wardaman and Karajarri artist Jenna Lee.

Contemporary Design

Female Indigenous designers feature strongly in the line-up of Design Canberra’s HOME:MADE exhibition, a signature event of the festival. Worimi jeweller Krystal Hurst, who is featured in the exhibit, was a finalist in the prestigious Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) in 2019 and again in 2020. Krystal’s award-winning Resilience necklace with imitation echidna quills and wattle seeds made from bronze was created in response to the attempt to eradicate First Nations perspectives from Australian history.

Eunice Napanangka Jack (Ngaanyatjarra), Mavis Nampitjinpa Marks (Luritja and Pintupi) and Keturah Zimran (Luritja and Pintupi) have all designed textiles with paintings of their country, culture and storytelling linked to the landscape.

Jenna Lee (Larrakia, Wardaman and Karajarri) has created paper string from pages of the publication Aboriginal Words and Place Names which are woven back together with book binding thread to make her beautiful ‘story carrier’ vessels (pictured) that symbolise the authority of First Nations.

View the HOME:MADE exhibition auction room here.

Design Canberra festival
My Country by Luritja artist Kayannie Denigan.

My Country

Luritja artist Kayannie Denigan has portrayed the beauty of the country of her ancestors – the scrubland, water bodies, boulders and hills of Central Australia – in a graphic intervention called My Country, located on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin. “As I flew over the land of my ancestors, I was struck by the beauty of the harsh desert. It was the first time I had been back to Central Australia since I was a child and, in hindsight, my last time on a plane for some time,” says Kayannie. “Peering out the plane window, the delineation of the shrubs, grasses, rocks and sand dunes was stark and stunning.”

My Country was installed by Wiradjuri artist Mackenzie Saddler.

See the full Design Canberra program here.


This piece brings the beauty across my country to my new home in Canberra.”

Kayannie Denigan Artist
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