August 10, 2023 by Artist Lane

Emma Stenhouse is an artist whose creative journey is a
testament to the power of cultural reconnection. Drawing from her Ngarrindjeri heritage, she weaves intricate narratives onto canvas, celebrating the stories of her people and the landscapes that have shaped her. With a background in early childhood education, Emma’s art is a bridge between tradition and contemporary expression, using traditional iconography to convey messages of

strength, unity, and the enduring bonds of family and community. Her works not only encapsulate the beauty of her heritage but also serve as a call to slow down, connect with nature, and appreciate the simple yet profound treasures of life. Through her art, Emma Stenhouse invites us to journey alongside her, experiencing the vivid tapestry of culture and identity that she brings to life with each brushstroke and weave.

Q: Can you share with us some insights into your Aboriginal cultural background and heritage?
It’s a very personal thing, as much as it’s a community thing as well. We’ve always existed within our own communities. It’s those connections that helps to shape who you are. And for me, that has come a little bit later in life, I’ve only come to those relationships as an adult. I’ve found it to be quite enlightening, but it’s also caused me
to reflect a lot on my life as a younger person and missing out on those cultural milestones that I would have been privy to had I been surrounded by my family in those earlier years. Now as an adult, you kind of know what direction you want to go in, but to have the guidance of the beautiful elders and the older women in community has been really amazing for me and something that I think I’ll always cherish and look back on really fondly.

Q: In what ways do you convey stories through your art?
Aboriginal artwork is storytelling. That is the basis of

our artwork, and it’s about sharing information. It’s about connection. It’s about honouring. In my artwork, whenever I paint something, it’s a story that has come from something that I have had a lived experience with or something that I’ve seen or just been captured by, and it’s about educating people on what the icons are so that they can understand our culture and what I have painted.

Q: Are there any particular stories or cultural aspects
that you often draw inspiration from?
I think I’m really drawn to highlighting stories and connection about the women in my family. Growing up,

I was raised by a single mom. And she instilled in me very early on, how to be respectful, but also how to be okay
with being who you are. And that’s really been, I guess, reaffirmed by the beautiful Auntie’s in my family, knowing that I can go to them for any sort of wisdom and guidance is amazing, but knowing and seeing myself through their eyes. It’s very special.

Q: How does weaving in your workshops promote a
deeper appreciation of Indigenous cultural practices?
A: In honouring culture, we honour our country. When

we’re harvesting the reeds, this is information that we’re passing down. I always like to acknowledge who taught me, where the skill has been learnt. I acknowledge the women who have shared that with me with a great appreciation that I now get to share my cultures through this way with other people. Traditionally you would have to go and harvest your materials and it was a process. You would have to dry them and then revive them with water. These useful items became very precious not only because of their usefulness, but also because of the time it took to create them.

Shop Emma Stenhouse’s collection here