Part 1: Deadly Contemporary Artists on Instagram to look out for

Are you wanting to support First Nation Australian creatives in your community? Then look no further! In this series, Yarn will be featuring some of the incredibly talented Indigenous contemporary artists and designers to follow on Instagram. 

Introducing...proud Kannju, Kuku Ya’u and Girrimay woman and contemporary artist, Emma Hollingsworth! Emma’s vibrant, uplifting paintings and digital designs are sure to bring pops of colour and culture to your Instagram feed. This talented artist produces intricate, symbolic paintings that depict her life journeys so far, stories from her ancestors, and are inspired by her aunties and uncles, who are heavily involved in the arts and cultural sectors (Mulganai, 2018). She currently has 32.8k (and counting) followers on Instagram under her business ‘Mulganai.’ ‘Mulganai’ means morning star in her language, and, as Emma (2018) describes:

“...It comes from an Elder and Aunty who blessed my mother when she was pregnant with me. My mother then named me after her.”

 Emma Hollingsworth painting. Courtesy of Mulganai, 2021.

Emma grew up travelling around Australia with her family visiting Aboriginal communities as both of her parents were pastors. In an interview with Emma (2020) describes her artistic style as:

“...bright, colourful and youthful. They [her artworks] often reflect how I’m feeling in the moment, and they are very emotive.”

Her colour choices and use of imagery have a soft, feminine quality to them, which derives from the inspiration she draws from being brought up by strong women and supporting female empowerment (Hollingsworth, 2020). 

She (2020) explains that she knew she wanted to be an artist from a young age where she says: 

“My mother said before I could even walk, I was drawing on just about anything I could find- including the walls, and when I came of age, I began taking it more seriously. It took me a few years to learn and develop my own style, but I did whatever I could to paint and learn more about my culture.”

Emma’s ‘Gecko’ painting featured in the Queensland Museum’s ‘660: Calling Home’ exhibition in 2019. Courtesy of Mulganai’s Instagram, 2021.

In June 2018, Emma had the opportunity to feature her ‘Gecko’ painting in the Queensland Museum’s ‘660: Calling Home’ group exhibition with a youth collective called Digi Youth Arts (DYA). This exhibition helped kick start her art career; and with that Mulganai was launched (Queensland Museum, 2018). 

In October 2019, Emma had the opportunity to collaborate with The Body Shop Australia and Amnesty International Australia to design a gift tag for their Christmas range. That year all the proceeds were donated to Amnesty Australia’s ‘Community is Everything’ campaign, which aims to help end the inequality Indigenous Australian children face. Emma was the first commissioned artist for Amnesty Australia’s ongoing campaign. Her artwork is titled ‘Believe’ and is about believing in yourself, chasing your dreams and helping others along the way (Mulganai, 2019).

 Emma Hollingsworth’s artwork ‘Believe.’ Courtesy of Mulganai’s Facebook, 2021.

Emma Hollingsworth’s artwork ‘Believe’ featured on The Body Shop’s 2019 Christmas tags. Courtesy of Mulganai’s Facebook, 2021.

Since Emma is all for female empowerment, she was the perfect candidate for Reebok Australia’s relaunch of the ‘Princess’ sneaker in March 2020. Emma was commissioned to create an artwork that celebrated the campaign’s theme of female empowerment and which also resonated with the company and their values. Emma’s artwork titled ‘Her’ was printed onto an exclusive run of Reebok’s Princess sneakers (Mulganai, 2020). 

Emma’s painting on Princess Reeboks for makeup artist Rowi Singh in November 2020. Courtesy of Mulganai’s Facebook, 2021. 

Cub Sport band member Zoe Davis wearing Princess Reeboks featuring Emma’s artwork ‘Her’ in December 2020. Courtesy of Mulganai’s Facebook, 2021.

The talented artist also collaborated with Swarovski Australia in October 2020 and commissioned Emma to create an exclusive artwork to mark their 125th anniversary. The artwork titled ‘Heritage & Community’ has over 260 Swarovski crystals on it. This beautiful piece went up for grabs in the competition hosted by Swarovski on November 1st, 2020.

 Emma’s painting ‘Heritage & Community’ commissioned by Swarovski Australia in October, 2020. Courtesy of Mulganai’s Facebook, 2021. 

Close up of Emma’s painting ‘Heritage & Community’ commissioned by Swarovski Australia in October, 2020. Courtesy of Mulganai’s Facebook, 2021. 

Check out Mulganai's Instagram here and Facebook here to see get to know more about Emma Hollingsworth and her culturally-rich artworks.

At Yarn we love sharing the magnificent works of emerging artists. We are always on the lookout to partner with emerging or already established First Nations artists to help them reach a wider audience and gain more recognition. All of the First Nations artworks we showcase are unique in their own ways. Whether it’s through colour choices, line work, symbols or totems, they all derive from strong voices that speak of country, culture, and the Dreamtime. 

Stay tuned for more contemporary Indigenous artists heating up Instagram!