Recently we had the privilege of interviewing incredible Indigenous artist Shara Delaney, who has worked with us for many years. We got to hear about her artistic inspiration, her NAIDOC artwork “Jara Yaganya” and thoughts on this year's NAIDOC theme “Heal Country”.
Shara is a proud Quandamooka woman from Stradbroke Island. Shara’s artworks encapsulate her identity as a strong saltwater woman, her connection to family, sand and sea.
When did you start painting?
“Ever since I was in primary school…I remember doing a series of Australian animals and I just knew from there that I like art and it was sort of like my strength. Just reflecting growing up I’ve always had family with their own [artistic practices]. With my art I always looked up to my Dad’s sister, Aunty Emily and so she knew that I liked art. That's when it starts you just build that relationship specially with young ones growing up, I’ve got a daughter now. I always had that encouragement and she did lovely Aboriginal artwork. So I really looked at her style and tried to incorporate that with what I do and I think that's where I get a lot of the saltwater colours of the blues and the greens. That’s my inspiration. So I started doing Aboriginal art from when I was young and it sort of stuck with me through adulthood.”
Do you paint with your daughter?
“Yeah i paint with my daughter. She’s always watching me do my artwork and to keep occupied I set her up with her own paper or little canvas and she’s just picking up on the same techniques. She loves drawing so I definitely encourage that with her. We have our own dreaming stories, so I’ll try and explain that to her. Just doing that with her and with my nieces and nephews is how [the stories] will be passed on.”
What inspires you to paint?
“Very much my family and just continuing our culture. But because I come from such a beautiful place I’m very easily inspired by the saltwater and other places on the island it’s so beautiful in Moreton Bay. Just never ending inspiration….And the animals I’ll sometimes do some paintings of dolphins, turtles. I feel like a lot of visitors who go over there sort of fall in love with the place so I think that’s why they have a connection with the art. They feel happy to wear it or purchase artwork and support people in the community.”
What do you think of the Yarn platform? What’s it like working with us?
“I feel like it's very innovative. It's just something that hasn’t been done before. There’s all of these other emerging companies, businesses that have been around and to work together is a great idea. I feel like it is one stop to go on and look. It’s really exciting and I’ve always had a good experience with my products [on Yarn]. This is a new year 2021, as an artist I’m having to get everything online and having the support to sell products on there is great. Because it can be a lot of work trying to run your own business. I feel like Yarn is a great platform for that.”
What are your thoughts on this year's NAIDOC theme “Heal Country”?
“I feel that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have always advocated for caring for country, protecting country and have had that strong relationship for generations. Our culture is very much embedded in looking after the land….We strongly identify who we are with our country and we meet other people and network. You always ask what country they are from so you have that respect. Through history we have been displaced through colonisation we have lost connection to country. It's really important for our wellbeing, spiritually and physically that we’re given access to go back to country. Because there are a lot of restrictions and with developments.
I feel like….even with my own painting is to keep giving our people a voice and to have clear communication in terms of how we want to continue to manage our country. Because if things aren’t being addressed or acknowledged I feel that we can never truly heal from past events. Just the understanding of cultural heritage is a massive thing, protecting sacred sites. Because our people today are still fighting for basic land rights or protecting birthing trees. There always seems to be a miscommunication, so when people finally start listening that when we can finally start healing.
To me the theme is also to me a way of raising awareness about the issues and so I feel like it's really beautiful. Because we are living in such a beautiful country so we want to preserve it for future generations.”
Jara Yaganya by Shara Delaney.
Tell us about your NAIDOC 2021 artwork, what story does it tell?
“It looks like layers in the painting, there’s some warmer tones that represent the land and then the more blue tones that represent the sea. I myself as a saltwater person, so I’m always talking about either one. But where I come from, we have strategies in place….even rangers who are doing the work….like fire management and cultural heritage. All across Australia we’ve got this cultural heritage that needs to be protected. My painting represents a meeting place as well as pathways. So encouraging people to come together….When I thought of the theme I chose those colours, I’ve got a lot of teals, purples, calming colours. To me when I do a painting it’s very much a feeling that I express.
It definitely is an important theme, I wouldn’t want people to just be like that's a really beautiful painting about country, land and sea. I know people will look at it whether it's in a corporate or professional setting that they understand it and sort of sparks that conversation about what traditional owners in that area are doing. If you go and visit other places to be aware of how to support. It’s such a big topic.
It's not just about how beautiful our country is and about healing country. It's more about talking about things and improving. The only way that most schools or workplaces learn about Aboriginal culture or history is through NAIDOC. So it’s such a important time to have proper discussions. Because it’s frustrating when you see something in the media where people aren’t understanding how we feel.”
What else have you been working on recently?
“I’ve been doing commissions behind the scenes and it really takes a lot of energy and time away. Because I haven’t had an opportunity to make some new artwork that I can put online or take to the gallery on Straddy. So I’ve done two commissions that have related to land and sea, a bit about agriculture, fisheries and I did a painting for that department. That was a really good opportunity, they can use it in their promotional materials and throughout their department. Also a few other commissions for people who have reached out to me, about them wanting something that represents their family. And I did another one for a mums and bubs group at a medical centre at Capalaba, because I’ve done a few murals at the Redlands Hospital.
It can be hard to manage, because I have a full time job….I want to take my own business to that next step and have the products available. But it's just about having the time , because you never want to make it feel rushed, because it takes the meaning out of the art. I would rather focus on quality, more meaningful paintings. Art is basically your identity and culture and trying to sell it, it’s always gotta come from a good place so I always step into it carefully.”
Shara’s beautiful NAIDOC 2021 artwork “Jara Yaganya” is now available as adult and kids polo shirts. Shop here.