Indigenous Design Made Waves at the Olympics

For the first time, surfing has been included as an Olympic sporting event, appearing in the Tokyo Olympics. The Australian team The Irukandjis made history by sporting a beautiful Indigenous design on both their uniforms and surfboards. The team's branding was designed by proud Barkindji and Malyangapa artist Jasmine Miikika Craciun in collaboration with BWM Dentsu. The team’s name Irukandji (a very venomous jellyfish species) was gifted to the surf team by the Yirrganydji people of North Queensland. Through the team’s branding, Indigenous art and culture was showcased on a global platform, giving the team a unique identity from their foreign competitors (NIT, 2021).

Australian surfers Matt Formston, Shakira Westdorp, Stephanie Gilmore, Julian Wilson, Sally Fitzgibbons and Harley Ingleby. Photograph: Ethan Smith/Surfing Australia. Courtesy of the Guardian, 2021.

Jasmine Craciun's art journey began at a young age and continued through to university, where she realised she could actually have a career in art through graphic design. Through her graphic design skills, Jasmine created the branding for the Irukandji surf team. Jasmine’s artwork represents the fluidity of water and references traditional Barkindji line art as a way of paying tribute to her heritage. The eye-catching design shows respect for spirituality and the ocean, blending the old and new. For Jasmine, the combination of an Indigenous design in the national colours of green and gold provides acknowledgement, representation and pride in Indigenous Australian culture (ABC News, 2021).

Jasmine Miikika Craciun with her gorgeous surfboard design. Courtesy of Newcastle Herald, 2021.

The talented athletes selected for the Olympic surf team were Stephanie Gilmore, Sally Fitgibbons, Julian Wilson and Owen Wright. The team were proud to compete with the new branding of the Irukandjis, which both pays tribute to Australia’s Indigenous culture and the surfers connection with the ocean, showing how deadly they are as a team. At the Olympics, they competed at Tsurigasaki Beach in Chiba, east of Tokyo. This was a significant moment in time for surfing, making its Olympic debut more than a century after Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku first pushed for its inclusion at the Games (Surfing Australia, 2021).

The Tokyo Olympics showed an incredible amount of Indigenous representation, both through the design of uniforms and the Indigenous athletes representing Australia. It’s wonderful that surfing is finally a part of the Olympics, and that a talented young Indigenous artist such as Jasmine was able to bring the team's identity to life.