Introducing Contemporary Dhanggatti Birrbay Artist Ginyaang Art


Introducing Contemporary Dhanggatti Birrbay Artist Ginyaang Art

Sophia Houston

December 14th, 2022

We are so excited to be working with Ginyaang Art, also known as Rebekah Lane, on a beautiful mini homewares collection. This is the first time we’ve collaborated with her and we wanted to get to know her story a little better. Check out this interview where we learn more about her art and the processes behind it.

Who are you connected to?

I was born on the Gold Coast on Yugambeh Country, grew up in Mullumbimby on Bundjalung Country, and I have lived here on Ngunnawal Country, Canberra for the past 11 years.

I am Dhanggatti Birrbay on my father's side and Swiss German and Irish on my mother's.

My grandmother was a Dhanggatti galbaan (woman) and my grandfather was Birrbay.

This question comes with some baggage for me, as I grew up always knowing I was Aboriginal and I knew who my mob were, but for a range of reasons (Stolen Generation, fractured families) I didn't grow up on my Country, or have the opportunity to easily connect with family and mob there. I have been slowly building those connections since my mid to late 20s and part of that process is finding my identity and where I fit in the bigger scheme of things. I know who I am now, and artmaking has played a big part in that.

When did you first begin painting?

I have always been creative and enjoyed visual arts ever since I can remember. I started a visual arts degree before completing my teaching degree, so it has always been a passion of mine. More recently there have been some pretty big transitional changes in my life that have meant I have had more time to get creative again, so I would say over the past 2 years is when I have really been able to pick up a paint brush again.

Where do you find inspiration for your artworks?

I am always inspired by Country and the beauty in nature. The colours, shapes, lines and form of Country. How those change and shift throughout the day and over time, through all the seasons and over the years. How different the colour of the ocean is to the colour of the Murrumbidgee, that sort of thing.

I am also inspired by people's stories. I try and share a narrative through my work, capture and archive the story, a visual reminder, so it can be continued to be told for years to come.

When did you realise you wanted to develop a career in visual art?

I definitely wanted to be involved in visual arts when I finished high school, starting a visual arts degree at the Queensland University of Technology in Meanjin and then switching to a Bachelor of Photography at Griffith University College of Art. I had my first of 4 burray in my early 20's, so after becoming a mum I changed career paths to teaching, which I have done for the past 17 years. Art for me is not really a career choice, but rather something I feel compelled to do to keep me balanced, and keep me connected to culture. Telling stories through my art is just something I love doing. 

How does creating art help you connect with your Country and culture?

Being so inspired by Country and representing Country in various ways in my work means I feel connected to it. I spend as much time as I can on Country, wherever that may be, observing, listening, feeling, learning. It's from here that I then try and paint those things into my work. Mob have always been storytellers, and that's where my focus is, expressing my culture through the stories I paint. Sometimes the stories are mine, and my experiences, and sometimes they are other people's stories that I am asked to share in my own way.

What’s your process creating a new artwork, talk us through it.

My process always begins with a story. What story am I trying to tell? Then I think about the components of that story, what needs to be represented, and the context it sits in. Country determines the colour palette. If the story sits in sea country then the colours and symbolic representations will be very different to those that are based inland and so on. I definitely combine some traditional features and styles with contemporary choices in order to support the story I am trying to tell. I think of my work as visual prompts that link to memories, tales, and experiences.
Usually I will sketch my ideas first, then transfer those to a canvas.

What has been the highlight of your artist journey so far?

The highlight of my journey so far for me personally has been the strengthening of my identity and connection to culture that my artmaking has afforded me. The other highlight is seeing the happiness in people when I present their visual story in the form of my artwork to them. That feels amazing.

What advice do you have for any First Nations artists that are just starting?

Always create with integrity, and create from the yukul (heart).

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