Part 2: 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. 

Rachael Sarra is a proud Goreng Goreng woman, contemporary artist and independent business owner of Sar.ra. Through her brand Sar.ra - established in 2019 - Rachael  brings together her passion for art, fashion and design. Here, she sells t-shirts and stationery featuring her paintings and prints, as well as fashion jewellery, produced in collaboration with Concrete Jellyfish (Griffith News, 2019). Rachael’s work combines contemporary and traditional Aboriginal painting styles in a range of vibrant, fun feminine colours. Her works explore her Aboriginality and often challenge society’s perception of  what Indigenous art and identity is (Sar.ra, 2019).

Rachael Sarra painting mural titled ‘Distant Country’ at Ipswich Health Plaza, September, 2020. Courtesy of Ipswich First, 2021.

Rachael, who graduated with a Bachelor of Visual Communication Design in 2013, expressed that her time at the Queensland College of Art in Brisbane taught her that “Art and design are such powerful tools and a strong vehicle for change” (Sarra, 2019). She shares with Griffith News (2019):

“I don’t think I’d really considered the power of my culture before I went to uni, and I learned so much about socially responsible design, and how to be a positive force creatively.”

This experience has been significant in her use of art as a powerful tool to educate and share Aboriginal culture and its evolution with her 41.2k Instagram followers, the general public, and younger Indigenous generations fallen out-of-touch with their Aboriginality (Sar.ra, 2021). 

In an interview with journalist Tahni Turpin for Qweekend Magazine, Rachael describes how art helped her growing up struggling with her identity (2021):

“Growing up, art and design became an outlet. I was drawn to it and my energy was always positive when I was around it. I grappled with my identity and social constructs, how we interact with people and the environment in a modern sense. Art and design has been a way to communicate my position on that in a way that’s accessible to everyone.”

Sar.ra’s “Always Was, Always Will Be” 2020 NAIDOC themed mismatch hoop set in collaboration with Concrete Jellyfish.  Courtesy of Concrete Jellyfish, 2021. 

Sar.ra’s artwork for “Always Was, Always Will Be” 2020 NAIDOC themed mismatch hoop set in collaboration with Concrete Jellyfish.  Courtesy of Concrete Jellyfish, 2021. 

A lot of aspects of Rachael’s works are drawn from her traditional heritage and her role as an Aboriginal woman ‘walking in two worlds.’ Rachael hopes that her works will provide future generations with a reflection of themselves and their Aboriginality in mainstream media and society. 

In a podcast interview with the channel ‘Bad Behaviour’ in 2020, Rachael describes her artistic process:

“I never really go into anything with a preconceived idea of what I’m going to comes from my experiences. So, by the time I put pen to paper or paint to canvas it’s done a lot of digesting in my mind...then I allow myself to freely explore what that means visually. A lot of the time that’s done through colour...some of it’s done digitally, some of it’s through acrylic on canvas...The process does vary but it just comes down to conveying a message through my inspiration comes through by what I’m living.”

Rachael’s ‘Uniting Flames’ artwork for the Queensland Firebirds’ Indigenous Round dress in 2019. Courtesy of the Queensland Firebirds, 2021. 

Rachael is making waves on the Brisbane art scene. As a commercial artist, she has had the pleasure of working with clients such as the Queensland Firebirds. The netball team approached Rachael in July 2018 to create a design for their inaugural Indigenous Round netball dress for their game on the 16th June, 2019. Rachael (2019) - in an interview with Queensland Firebirds’ player and Waka Waka woman, Jemma Mi Mi - informed Jemma that her favourite element on the dress represents ‘past, present and future.’ Rachael (2019) said that she placed this element on there to acknowledge that:

“Aboriginal culture has always been a part of Australia’s history, but to put it on the Suncorp Super Netball platform is, like, the future as well. It’s really exciting to have that as an acknowledgement of where we’ve come from and where we can go with this round.” 

Rachael continues:

“This isn’t just part of the Queensland Firebirds; it’s also like an extension of my connection to Country. I’m a big believer in the power that artwork has to be able to share stories and be that vessel for change, and I think that’s what really drives me, is kind of, using something that’s really visually appealing, but embedding stories into it.”

If you want to hear more about Rachael’s interview with Queensland Firebirds’ Jemma Mi Mi, watch the video below:

 The following month, Rachael had the opportunity to be a part of a much larger project, which would be seen by everyone visiting Brisbane City. The Brisbane City Council (BCC) and Blaklash Projects commissioned Rachael’s artwork ‘Two Worlds’ to be projected onto the William Jolly Bridge as part of Black History Month’s ‘Shared Connections’ project in July 2019.  

Rachael’s artwork ‘Two Worlds’ projected onto the William Jolly Bridge in July 2019 for Black History Month’s ‘Shared Connections.’ Courtesy of Sar.ra, 2021. 

In the same month, these organisations commissioned the aforementioned work, as well as her artwork ‘Distinguish’ to be wrapped onto two BCC buses.

Rachael’s artworks ‘Two Worlds’ and ‘Distinguish’ wrapped onto two BCC buses in July 2019 for Black History Month’s ‘Shared Connections.’ Courtesy of Sar.ra, 2021. 

In September, 2020, Rachael fulfilled a commission that hit close to home. Her mural, titled ‘Distant Country,’ in Ipswich CBD was part of the Brisbane Street Art Festival’s Ipswich program. ‘Distant Country’ and its story is significant to this location because, as Rachael explains to Ipswich First (2020):

“It explores the idea that although I’ve lived in Ipswich my whole life, I’m a proud Goreng Goreng woman and culturally I do connect back to Bundaberg, so it’s the idea of connection and disconnection and place.”

As a modern, multicultural Aboriginal woman, Rachael’s works are automatically going to be separate from the more traditional styles of Aboriginal art. Rachael (2020) explains, to the latter, that this is because:

“I’m using tools that didn’t exist for our people even 20 years ago, let alone 250 years ago, so I would say I’m playing a role in the evolution of our art as Aboriginal people.”  

Below is a short clip - courtesy of Ipswich First (2021) - of Rachael painting the mural titled ‘Distant Country’ at Ipswich Health Plaza, September, 2020:

Check out Rachael Sarra's Instagram here and her website here.

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, linework, 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!