SHERI SKELE

September 13, 2023 by Artist Lane

Q. Can you share with us some insights into your Aboriginal cultural background and heritage?
A. I am a proud Bidjara woman of the South West region

in Queensland and my family are from the Charleville area. I didn’t discover my Aboriginal heritage until I was in my teens and sadly I didn’t understand the importance of it at the time, though I was always proud of my heritage.

I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to close the gap slightly for my children and been able to give them the opportunity to learn about their culture from a much younger age.

Q. What themes or stories from Aboriginal culture and history do you most often explore in your art, and why?
A. I really love to paint about my experiences growing up here on beautiful Gubbi Gubbi country as well as the time

I spent in the NT which is where I was first exposed to my culture and introduced to my true identity.

Q. One of your greatest adventures was moving to Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory, what prompted your decision to move?
A. It was such a life changing experience for me and although I didn’t realise it at the time it has influenced
and directed my life in so many ways. I was quite young,
in my early twenties, and didn’t think too much of the move, it seemed fun and I was up for an adventure.

Q. How does your Bidjara heritage influence your art?
A. I feel so lucky to be able to connect and share my

Bidjara heritage with so many people and continue to
learn and grow myself. My culture is what makes my artworks so special and drawing from that is what
inspires my paintings.

Q. What insights have you gained from your time at Dhimurru that influence your art and your heritage?
A. I am eternally grateful to my uncles and aunties who took me under their wing and introduced me to so much
of our incredible culture. I spent a lot of time yarning to whoever was in the troopie as we would drive over the corrugated roads to get to sacred sites and the most beautiful fresh water holes you could possibly imagine. It was in these times that I learnt to slow down and connect internally, which has guided me on my artistic journey and
I always felt so at ease when I was on County, it was a very humbling and an eye opening experience.

Q. What motivated you to become an artist, and how
did you get started with your artistic journey?
A. I began painting as a way to connect with my culture
and to learn more about our history and my family tree. One day I just intuitively picked up a paint brush and started painting and it felt so natural and I knew right
then and there that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

Q. You speak of your deep connection to the earth, country, and spirit. How do these elements manifest
in your artwork?
A. The connection that I feel to my culture as a whole is

so beautiful, and also very hard to explain but it’s just something thats inside of me.

Our culture is intertwined with the land and sea, the people, lore, our identity and the creation, and when country is loved and cared for, country cares for us in return. When I paint I draw from these feelings of
knowing and I use symbols and colours to tell stories
that I want to share which mostly happens organically. 

Q. Can you elaborate on how the gaps in your
knowledge about your heritage have empowered
you as an individual?
A. I grew up envious of people around me who appeared

so much more enriched in their culture than I was and through research, questions and more questions the
gaps have allowed me to be vulnerable and share my
own individual story which has empowered so many other people with very similar stories to mine. It’s an incredible feeling knowing that through my journey I’ve been able
to encourage my brothers and sisters to discover and
learn about their own Aboriginal heritage and their
own personal stories, and forge their mark as proud Aboriginal Australians. 

Q. What inspires you to be creative? Is there a certain place you go for inspiration?
A. Inspiration comes and goes and it can be difficult at times to stay in the creating space when I need to also be managing the admin side of my business as well as look after my family. I find that I have weeks when the creativity just flows and getting outside in nature always helps with that. I really like to work in a clean and tidy space with my favourite music playing and a musky scent flowing in the diffuser.

Q. How do you balance traditional Aboriginal art forms and contemporary artistic expressions in your work?
A. Aboriginal art is very traditional, its a form of art that has been used by our people for centuries, however the way that I paint using the symbols, colours, styles and composition are more on the contemporary side.

Q. Could you share a bit about the iconography in your
artwork and their significance?

A. A lot of the symbols that I use relate directly to my
interpretations and include things like sand dunes, native shrubs and plants, bush turkey and kangaroo tracks, and the ocean and rivers. I also have a unique colour palette which mostly consists of pinks and peaches as well as the more earthy tones.

Q. How do you share your ancestors’ stories with your
daughters and the wider community through your art?

A. My daughters love hearing about our family histories

and learning about all of the symbol meanings and stories in my paintings, they are very proud young aboriginal girls. I love being able to talk to them about their culture and ensure that they will continue it on to their children.

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