Magnolia Maymuru on New Beginnings, Kinship and Connection to Country for Vogue

Exciting news in Australian fashion! Not only has Yolŋu woman, actress and new generation model Mamindjama (Magnolia) Maymuru been featured on next month’s cover of Vogue, she also has her own spread! Here, Magnolia is interviewed by award-winning Yuwaalaraay writer and storyteller Nardi Simpson about kinship, connection to country and what Vogue’s sunrise theme in relation to ‘New Beginnings’ means to her. If you haven’t already, check out our previous article Yolŋu model Magnolia Maymuru on Vogue Australia's September issue 'New Beginnings' for more information about Magnolia’s remarkable modelling and acting career. 

In line with Vogue’s theme, Nardi Simpson (2021) asked Magnolia to describe what sunrise looks like in her country and the colours of her homeland:

“This place [Nhulunbuy, Yirrkala] is known as sunrise country. It belongs to Rirratjingu clan. This is where the sun first rises and then shines on the rest of Arnhem Land. We have songlines about it, we have cultural ceremonies about it—all about this land and this country. I've been here for quite a few weeks now, with family, for ceremony.” 

“I would say that from sunrise to sunset, it’s stunning. It goes red to pink and makes the whole country glow. It just makes everything stand out...from the trees to the birds, to our skin. To the rocks, the water. It’s just very vibrant. Colour is everywhere, making life glow.” 

Magnolia wears a Roksanda jumpsuit, Cartier ear cuff, and Prada shoes. Photographed by @charliedenno. Courtesy of Vogue Australia, 2021.

For Magnolia (2021), sunrises are both ancient and new and reflect the ways of mob, nation-wide: 

“...that’s the beautiful thing about us. All countrymen, all over Australia, we have that connection...So, it seems new whenever we’re trying to do something or going somewhere, but really, our people have experienced it, practised it before in different ways, our ways. New things repeat over and over again so they are fresh, and they are old. That’s what we’re taught.”

As part of generations of Djarrakpi women, this concept associated with the duality of new and old is not unfamiliar to Magnolia. This is especially since Magnolia has recently become a mother in March. So, when Nardi asked about what comes to mind in terms of this concept, Magnolia (2021) said:

“I think about becoming a mother. That’s something we women have been doing, been going through; becoming ourselves, women, then mothers. With each generation, it’s just me becoming ancient.”

Magnolia wears a Giorgio Armani cape. Photographed by @charliedenno. Courtesy of Vogue Australia, 2021.

When asked about how she feels being connected to the ancestral ways of her people, she responded (2021) with: 

“...It gives me such a strong connection to the land and language... it feels like home ... It’s the feeling of being grounded, like I know where I am and where I'm supposed to be.”

Magnolia (2021) explained that she only gets this feeling of grounding and strength when she’s at home:

“...Sunrises...everywhere are beautiful and all, but when it’s home it’s different ... hearing the sound of the birds, and seeing my mob walk around, going across the road for tea, crossing over to the cousins’ just to chat for breakfast ... it’s just good to see that. It makes me feel good.” 

Magnolia wears a Chanel jumpsuit, available from the Chanel boutiques. Photographed by @charliedenno. Courtesy of Vogue Australia, 2021.

As a new mother, it is Magnolia’s responsibility to teach and pass on social protocols, traditions and ceremonies to her kin, Djarraran. Here, it’s important to note that traditional kinship is more than just social hierarchy and bloodlines, it goes back to kinship to the land, defining identity, establishing connection to country and bringing families together. Magnolia (2021) spoke to Nardi about her kinship and what ‘new beginnings’ Djarraran has brought her:

“She’s given me so much...a purpose...a new role as her mother. So, now it’s my job to teach her her ways, and her grandmother’s Yolŋu culture. And then there’s also my knowledge I’ve got to teach her. Her being my daughter, she will take over my ceremonies when she’s older. And I’ll care for hers until she’s old enough to learn those things. Later on, when she’s older, she’s going to get lots of responsibilities in ceremonies.”

Magnolia wears an Alexander McQueen jacket and skirt. Djarraran is wrapped in Kieren Karritpul fabric, from Merrepen Arts. Photographed by @charliedenno. Courtesy of Vogue Australia, 2021.

Magnolia wears a Jordan Dalah jacket and skirt. Photographed by @charliedenno. Courtesy of Vogue Australia, 2021.

Overall, Vogue’s new push for the representation of First Nations creatives in a positive, nurturing and caring light has built a sense of admiration and acknowledgement from the wider Australian community. By Vogue making this commitment to giving First Nations creatives a voice, it will help launch this ‘new beginnings’ theme further. This commitment should involve avoiding the misrepresentation of First Nations peoples and informing the wider community with a solid understanding of Australian history from an Indigenous perspective. In doing so, we as a nation can move forwards to realistic reconciliation (Vogue Australia, 2021).

At Yarn, our goal is to help drive and promote the development and longevity of the First Nations fashion scene into a mainstream space. We are always on the lookout for fresh faces at Yarn to help Indigenous models get their foot in the door to the international fashion realm. It is exciting to see that more and more First Nations models are making it internationally, and providing recognition and representation for the younger generation.