‘Desert Diamonds’ shines in the hinterland’s response to Vogue magazine

It started with a few boxes of donated clothes – formal dresses, two-piece suits, tiaras and jewelry.

In the remote desert communities of Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara, which stretches on the borders between the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia, young people dress, pose and show their power in a new magazine.

Rikina, Pitjanjatjara’s word for “cool, with style,” was produced by the NPY Women’s Council (NPYWC), with youth workers becoming fashion photographers in the desert response to Vogue.

And they say it gave young Anangu confidence.

The fashion show is coming to life in the press

“We had big plans for [NPYWC’s 40th anniversary] AGM organized a fashion show last year and we were really excited about it, “said boarding school education officer Tamika McMasters.

“But we couldn’t continue because of COVID.”

However, the boxes of clothes, donated by the social enterprise Thread Together, were not thrown away.

Six young Indigenous boys in men's suits pose in a crowded car with a broken windshield
Anangu guys got involved in a photography party, including Ricallum, Clayton, Anton, Eric, Quindarius and Jeremiah in Mantamar, WA.(Delivered by: NPY Women’s Council)

Photographing was done in communities including Kaltukatjara (Docker River) and Mutitjula in NT, Papulankutja (Blackstone), Mantamaru (Jameson) and Irrunyntju (Wingellina) in WA, and Putkatja in SA.

“They were very happy to wear older dresses and dress up and laugh with all their friends, they really enjoyed it.”

With slogans like “Desert Diamonds – Strong and Beautiful”, “Wiyantja wiya – Never Give Up”, “Kings and Queens of the Desert” and “Kungkas [Pitjanjatjara for girls/women] in the countryside “, the magazine shows teenagers at home, behind which are spacious mountain ranges and posing with rusty emergency cars that match the red dirt.

Some took on fierce facial expressions and cheeky poses, some pensive, others radiant or on the verge of giggles next to their friends.

close-up photo of a young native girl wearing a tiara and blouse with a leopard pattern and looking at the camera
Rikina’s slogan is “Celebrate the power of our youth” like Zemirah of Mantamaru, WA.(Delivered by: NPY Women’s Council)

‘Nervous, shy, proud’

Three friends from Docker River, Anne-Marie, Cynthia and Delicia, were excited to see themselves and their friends and relatives in the press with the release of Riki’s debut release.

Anne-Marie, who started working with young people in her community, said she helped convince the other two to join the photography.

Delicia said she initially felt “nervous and shy,” but all three agreed that they felt “proud” of the experience.

Indigenous teenager wearing a pearl necklace and formal dress posing in the desert for a fashion magazine
Cynthia of Kaltukutjara (Docker River) said she feels “proud” to see herself on the pages of the magazine.(Delivered by: NPY Women’s Council )

Tamika McMasters said the project instilled confidence in young Anangu.

Young Aboriginal people are often at a disadvantage in terms of health, housing, services and employment opportunities in remote communities, compared to their non-Aboriginal and urban peers.

So part of Ms. McMasters ’work with NPYWC involves helping them acquire skills that will help them find work and inspire them for possible careers.

A young indigenous boy with tousled orange hair in a pink shirt and looking at the camera
Young people from communities across the NPY Lands participated in the filming, including Clayton, pictured, from Mantamaru (Jameson).(Delivered by: NPY Women’s Council)

Pointing to a “powerful” portrait of one of Ricky’s models, Ms. McMasters explained that before filming, a young girl “never came to the youth shed” in her community for harassment and teasing.

“But one of the youth workers told her that they were taking photos and that they received donated clothes, and she was at the photo shoot that day. They took these photos,” Ms. McMasters said.

Indigenous teenager with hair tucked into a tight bun, posing in a desert landscape in a pink formal dress
Delicia said she felt “nervous and shy” when she first tried modeling.(Delivered by: NPY Women’s Council)

“After that photo shoot, she now goes to the toilet every day.

“In this photo, you can see that she is very confident. She [now] she feels more comfortable in the youth home because she may have been with all the children and enjoyed painting. “

A young indigenous woman in a strapless formal dress poses in a desert landscape for a fashion magazine
Representing young people at home in the countryside, Anne Marie poses here in Kaltukutjara (Docker River).(Delivered by: NPY Women’s Council)

Ms. McMasters said the June 2022 issue of Rikina is being distributed across Central Australia and the photos have already proven popular on social media, and the NPY Women’s Council hopes to publish another 2023 issue of the magazine.

The NPYWC was launched in 1980 as an advocacy body for Aboriginal women and children, and today it is managed and administered by Aboriginal women, providing a range of social, artistic and health services throughout the region.

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