Painting the stories of what it means to be an Aboriginal woman in a modern world, artist and designer Rachael Sarra is challenging society’s perceptions of Aboriginal art and identity.
The contemporary artist from Goreng Goreng Country said she used her art as a medium to reflect her upbringing.
Sarra has a distinct style: her pieces are marked with a feminine, fun and engaging energy.
“It’s bright and engaging and a reflection of my experiences and energy,” Sarra said.
Sarra’s work was featured during the 2019 Brisbane Street Art Festival at the city’s Brunswick St Mall. She was also the lead artist for the Super Netball’s Queensland Firebirds Indigenous dress, and has collaborated with Life Apparel Co and Concrete Jellyfish Co.
Despite these bright, happy hues featuring all over Brisbane, Sarra said she previously struggled with her identity and being of mixed race. She says art is her outlet to express this.
“I’m a product of who has come before me and my mixed race has caused me a lot of confusion around my identity, who I am and where I belong,” she said.
“I am uniquely me. I’m not perfect but I am unique, just like we all are. That’s one thing my dad has taught me.
“For me, the internal conflict of feeling too Blak to be white and not Blak enough to be Blak is not uncommon.
“I think it’s something most of us have grappled with in our lives. But that’s why art became so important to me.”
It was only after graduating from Griffith University’s Queensland College of Art with a bachelor of design in visual communication did Sarra realise how vital art would be to her sense of connection.
“As I started to connect my culture to my art and design, that’s when art became an outlet for me to belong somewhere,” she said.
“I belonged in my artwork; the energy and emotions are intrinsically linked to my experiences so it’s been a place where I could feel peace.”
With a steadily increasing social media influence, Sarra said while she felt empowered to use her voice on social issues, she did not proclaim to speak for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
“I have grown to be more outwardly political than I first imagined my brand to be but the more I evolve and the more that my brand grows it’s hard for me to feel peace without speaking out on issues that are affecting our mobs,” she said.
“It’s important to make sure that I don’t speak on behalf of everyone but speak to issues from my perspective.”
Art has enabled Sarra to navigate the contemporary world, sharing her story and her voice along the way.
“Doing what I do allows me to be in a unique position where I connect with many leaders on many issues to create a vehicle for change through art,” she said.
“I’m personally passionate about the destruction of systemic and institutionalised racism.
“This fire has been passed down by my father.”
She said her role as an artist was to bring awareness to issues of racism, and to redirect the narrative.
By Rachel Stringfellow