Event review: ganbu marra runway, THE LUME

The mesmerising ganbu marra runway, with THE LUME’s 'Connections' exhibition as its backdrop, highlighted cultural elegance and excellence.
ganbu marra runway. Image is huge immersive space with Indigenous imagery and small figures parading their fashions on the floor.

This year’s showcase of emerging First Nations fashion talent, the ganbu marra runway, as part of Melbourne Fashion Week (23-29 October), surpassed all expectations, catapulting the celebration to unprecedented heights. THE LUME Melbourne transformed into a mesmerising canvas where hypnotic projections illuminated the space. These projections were no ordinary display; they were the revered works that were part of THE LUME’s Connection exhibition, encapsulating the essence of the oldest living culture on earth.

As the fashion show unfolded, guests and models were engulfed in an immersive experience where visual storytelling became a breathtaking spectacle. The vibrant hues and intricate patterns from Connection danced across the walls, creating an ethereal backdrop that harmonised seamlessly with the showcased designs.

Melbourne Fashion Week’s vibrant ganbu marra runway celebrated Blak excellence in the emerging Australian fashion scene in conjunction with Connections to tell the story of Australia’s dynamic and enduring cultural history using different images and First Nations artworks. The projections served as the glowing backdrop for 16 talented First Nations artists and designers, including Nungala Creative, Kaninda, Clair Helen, Wuurn of Kanak and Ginny’s Girl Gang.

Garment by Wuurn of Kanak at ganbu marra runway 2023. Photo: @bellaloke @tjgarvie @carlyravenhall Naomi Rahim Photography.

The stunning runway opened with a beautiful Welcome to Country that celebrated First Nations’ Land, talent and all Countries. The story moved onlookers through a journey in Australian history, with First Nations designs and artworks in a moving and captivating runway show. Wurundjeri elder Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin AO conducted the Welcome to Country ceremony, and her granddaughter, Wurundjeri woman Chenile Chandler, performed a moving song called ‘Call to the Country’.

Yorta Yorta, Gomeroi and Wiradjuri creative Anastasia Keshen created a contemporary, relaxed feel. The second year of ganbu marra was soaked in community, celebration and breathtaking projections.

One of the most stunning collections was from Ticia Designs, which featured a sacred lizard totem that was very important to founder and designer Letticia Shaw. The collection incorporated the totem into the black and gold sequinned patterns in the mini dresses and floor-grazing maxi dresses of Ticia Designs.

Among the highlights was Ginny’s Girl Gang’s collection, which included hand-painted denim, providing visual storytelling through clothing. There was an important message on the top and jeans of how Indigenous peoples own the land. The Aboriginal flag on the top carried the words: ‘Always has been, always will be’.

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The backdrop of THE LUME’s Connections exhibit was truly magical. One of the highlights was Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s mural, commissioned by art dealer and artist Hank Ebes in 1994. This was a gorgeous section that paid homage to the Alhalkere women’s dreaming sites and the passing seasons in Kngwarreye’s clan Country.

Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s works on display at THE LUME, Melbourne. Photo: Supplied.

A real accomplishment of the ganbu marra runway was that it united talented Blak designers and creatives in an ideal environment for celebrating Blak excellence. In this way, Blak talent was acknowledged and staged through a cohesive, immersive and colourful experience that was fun and thought-provoking and shared a strong message.

ganbu marra runway at THE LUME was staged for two sessions on 24 October as part of Melbourne Fashion Week 2023.

Featuring ADJADURA ART, BAYIKINA AWAKEN, Clair Helen, Elverina Johnson x Taking Shape, Ginny’s Girl Gang, Ihraa Swim, Ikuntji Artists, Kamara Australia, Kaninda, Lazy Girl Lingerie, MumRed, Nungala Creative, Ticia Designs, wa-ring, Wuurn of Kanak and Yarrenyty Arltere Artists.

This review is published under the Amplify Collective, an initiative supported by The Walkley Foundation and made possible through funding from the Meta Australian News Fund.

Erin Visagie is a South African-Filipino freelance journalist and model. Her interests include coffee, tango, and social media, and she appears in WonderSips' Boost Juice 2023 campaign. In 2022, she received the JERAA Private Media Diversity Award and the RMIT Journalism Inclusion Award. She was a Voxfrock Rookie and was a 2023 finalist for the 7News Young Achievers Sofitel Art Award. She researches and presents untold stories, lived experiences, and diverse voices. Erin Visagie is based in Naarm (Melbourne), Australia. Instagram: @ezzavee8749