Tell us about yourself
I am a proud Wiradjuri, Yorta Yorta and Gangulu woman and I live and work on my maternal grandmother’s Country in Narrandera, NSW. I work as artist, printmaker and designer for my own ethical and sustainable label, Ngarru Miimi.
In what way does your work reflect the stories from your mob or culture?
My work, in its entirety, reflects my identity and culture. It is entangled with who I am, where I come from and how I move in both Aboriginal and Western worlds. A large part of what I do is strongly linked to my relationship to storytelling. My grandparents were the most captivating story tellers; a question would turn into a two-hour conversation about moments from their life. I truly loved this part of my childhood. I feel it is my role to continue their tradition of storytelling. I choose to do this through textiles and fashion. Everything that I make is embedded with values that connect me and share these stories, just as my grandparents did.
A recent work of mine, a textile print entitled Sandhills, tells the story of my grandmother’s Country and where she grew up. Part of this artwork is about growing up on Country in a close-knit Aboriginal community with family by the banks of the Murrumbidgee river. It also portrays the times of segregation where Aboriginal people lived on the fringes of town because of the laws and policies of the time. They were stripped of their rights to Country and forced to hide their children, culture, language and traditions. This is a familiar story for Aboriginal communities across Australia.
What are some of the ways your fashion label, Ngarru Miimi, explores self-determination and sovereignty?
For Aboriginal people, the phrase “we walk in two worlds” is common. The creation of Ngarru Miimi helps me navigate this walk, enabling me to explore my self-determination and sovereignty. It does so by allowing me to control my own cultural, social and economic growth. We have lived through generation upon generation of forced assimilation — anything of cultural value and expression was stripped from us. I am on a journey that uses my artworks and designs to break the shackles of colonisation, allowing me to assert my rightful place in this country as a sovereign woman with thousands of years of tradition running though my veins. I am creating something that represents and protects everything valuable to me — my culture, Country and kinship
What does Ngarru Miimi mean?
Ngarru Miimi roughly translates to honey sister in Wiradjuri and has many different meanings for me. Mainly it reflects my identity, my grandmother, traditional practices to obtain honey and my absolute love for it.
We both had a sweet tooth and each night after dinner we would sit down together and have a cup of sweet milky tea with a slice of bread and honey for dessert — something I continue to this day. In a funny way it is acknowledging and attributing my creative journey to the legacy of my grandmother.
Please share a favourite moment or memory from your work
I was attending a workshop with some Aboriginal women and when I walked into the room and started yarning with everyone, one aunty who I hadn’t met prior came up and commented on my dress. She congratulated me on it being very Wiradjuri. She knew where I was from and the cultural traditions represented in print just from looking at the artwork. The particular print that I was wearing was called Ngayirr (meaning sacred/secret or mystery in Wiradjuri) and acknowledges line work found on Country that warns of sacred areas.
This also highlights the difficulties of explaining the many different forms of Aboriginal art and how they connect to specific countries and peoples. For another Aboriginal woman to comment on my artwork and link it to my Country is truly special to me. I do not think she realised just how much of an impact she made on me in that brief moment. If you look a little deeper into our art traditions, you will see that we all have artwork styles that distinguish areas we are from. This was a moment that confirmed that I was on the right path with my work.
What is your artistic process?
I’m often inspired when I spend time out on Country or with family. Something will often spark an artwork, whether it’s a memory, landscape or waterway. Once I have an idea it’s generally created in the form of a block carving. There are times when I will transfer my artwork to silk screen, but it always starts out as a block carving (carving in wood).
Once my artwork is carved, I hand-print my natural fabric metre by metre. Generally, I do a small print run to cover a design I have in mind. From there, I test out my pattern in order to perfect my design before cutting into my hand-printed fabric. Once I’m happy with the design, I’ll cut out my pattern pieces and sew them up into a beautiful garment. It’s a very long process but doing this ensures I respect my culture and Country and tell my story through textiles and fashion.
How can we support Aboriginal businesses?
There is such a long list of answers for this question but really, I think it’s a matter of context. For instance, it could cover education, health, culture and heritage, however here I will focus on Aboriginal businesses. Firstly, be a conscious consumer. If you are a non-indigenous consumer, it’s important to develop an awareness of the products and services you are purchasing and/or engaging with and interact with Aboriginal-led and -owned businesses. This is just a start in how we can be supported.
Our culture is routinely exploited for profit. If we had the opportunity to lead our areas of expertise with the support of non-indigenous people, it would be a game changer for us that would directly contribute to our own cultural, social and economic growth, which in turn supports us in our need for self-determination. Buy ethical, support art centres and Aboriginal artists and designers directly, and always ask questions if something doesn’t feel right.
How can our readers participate in educating the young and old about Aboriginal culture?
Look for independent ways to research Aboriginal culture and history from reliable resources. That’s a fantastic way for non-indigenous people to participate. Today, there is a wide range of books, online resources and programs that can help educate those wanting to learn. Take it upon yourself to truly understand our history and culture without asking us to do the educating, and when, or if, we do contribute, please listen to our lived experience.
When will your next drop/collection happen?
I’m in the process of releasing small drops each fortnight, exclusive pieces that are very limited. I like to work sustainably and produce limited numbers of things to ensure I’m upholding my responsibility of protecting Country. Head over to my Instagram to keep up to date!