Batchelor Institute » From Yuendumu to the Melbourne Cup: Aboriginal Artist to Feature On Race Day
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From Yuendumu to the Melbourne Cup: Aboriginal Artist to Feature On Race Day

otto sime melbourne cup

L: Otto Sims and Batchelor Institute lecturer Brigida Stewart working on the dress. R: Otto Sims painting in Yuendumu


Central Australian Indigenous artist Otto Sims has been invited to showcase his work at the Melbourne Cup Fashions on the Fields event this year. With the help of Batchelor Institute visual art lecturers and designers Amanda McMillan and Brigida Stewart, Sims’ unique art will be transformed into a dress for one of Australia’s leading fashion competitions.

Sims, from the Warlukurlangu Artist of Yuendumu art centre, is currently studying at Certificate II in Visual Arts at Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education and has begun focusing on textiles. This particular piece holds a special significance for the artist. 

“The design is part of my totem. It is an important totem, we call it ‘witi’. It belongs to the skin group of the Japaljarri and Jungarrayi,” said Sims.

“It is an important songline. I have a lot of respect for the totem that I have put on canvas. The privilege of putting it on fabric, which I have never done before, is a challenge. It is a window of opportunity for me to showcase my art in fabric.”

Sims will be heading down to Melbourne to see his finished work on the runway at the Designer Award at the Emirates Melbourne Cup Day on November 3rd. This invitation-only category focuses on some of Australia’s best emerging racewear design talent. 

“I can show my young people that if I can do it, you can do it,” said Sims.

“It is good because we are trying to teach our young people, our young Indigenous people, to be successful in the art world. To try different avenues”

“The old people, the old artists before us, they worked really hard to give us these art centres so that we can work hard. It is a second income for our young people”

Milliner Gina Marie Millinery will also be creating a headpiece for the outfit. 

Amanda McMillian, Otto Sims & Cecilia Alfonso copy

Batchelor Institute lecturer Amanda McMillian, Otto Sims and Warlukurlangu art centre manager Cecilia Alfonso

Batchelor Institute visual art lecturers Amanda McMillian and Brigida Stewart have been working with Sims to create this one-of-a-kind outfit.

“Otto’s ambition is to be known for his fabric’s and fashion. I started teaching him how to transform him paintings into pattern repeats and how to print fabric both digitally and with screen-printing,” said Ms McMillian.

“Currently he is learning sewing techniques. He is well on the way to achieving his goal.”

“Participating in the Melbourne Cup Fashions on the field is a great teaching and learning process with real life experience and allows the students to gain a greater sense of confidence in the art process and their own ability,” said Ms Stewart.

This entry to the Designer Award presents an opportunity to showcase Aboriginal fashion design and central desert art front and centre at Flemington on one of the biggest social events in Australia.

See more of Otto Sims’ work in this video from the Australian Museum



Words by Chelsea Heaney.