If her feminine, fun and contemporary prints haven't caught your eye yet, it's time to take a look (and leave behind that rock you've been living under). Summer 18/19 collaborating artist, Rachael Sarra talks finding inspiration in mental states & putting Aboriginal culture, contemporary art and storytelling on a global scale.
Tell us a bit about your upbringing & culture!
Well, I’m the youngest and only girl of 3 and I’ve always been a really big family girl. I’m a Goreng Goreng woman from my Dads side. His mother was a very strong Aboriginal woman and his father was an Italian man. My mum has European background and I wouldn’t change either of them for anything.
My upbringing was really supportive and positive - apart from being forced to watch my oldest brother play cricket for 8 hours every weekend when I was younger. I think that’s what got me into basketball and netball in the first place.. to avoid being at cricket. I started off being quite sporty and grew up to be a bit more creative than sporty or maybe I’m just lazy and can’t be bothered sprinting up and down a court 5 days a week.
Talk art to us! How did you get into it, and what have been your favourite projects so far?
I feel like I’ve never been great at expressing myself with words so naturally shifted towards art and design. I remember in grade 7 we had to do an art project that got displayed on assembly. We had to paint a picture of ourselves and what I painted was a completely different style to everyone else. I just remember painting what I felt at the time and people seemed to respond quite well to it.
I also loved my high school art teachers so I wanted to take art classes just to hang out with who I thought were the cool teachers. I can’t really remember being a stand out artist.I wasn’t really in touch with my Aboriginality as strongly as I am now. I never denied it obviously but I don’t remember having the opportunity to express myself in that way.
I guess that’s why I love it now. It’s a way for me to share and celebrate my culture while strengthening my own identity.
Some of my favourite projects I've worked on are obviously this Life Apparel collab (DUH), the Australia Post 50th Anniversary Stamp of the 1967 Referendum, my collab with Concrete Jellyfish Co, and working with the Queensland Firebirds Suncorp netball team on their Indigenous round dress. The Kmart Ignite the Wonder artwork was another great one. Plus, any job that aims to reshape our perspectives and opinions on Aboriginal culture.
You are obviously a very creative person, where do you gather and find inspiration?
I find inspiration in the weirdest places. Sometimes it’s a mental state. Sometimes the moment I’m trying to escape something, my mind is distracted enough to subconsciously think of something cool.
I’m also a Gemini so my mind is always buzzing. It helps to surround yourself with the right people too. My best friend who I’ve known for over 22 years is my favourite sounding board.
What is the ultimate life goal - career-wise?
I feel like I’m just getting started. My mind is always going wild. I’d love to own my own successful business and continue working with amazing people. I want to put Aboriginal culture and contemporary art and storytelling on a global scale. But respectfully of course. That’s the most important balance for me. Shooting for the moon but also respecting my family and community dynamic and staying true to myself.
Pictured (left to right): Shannon Ruska, Rachael Sarra, Jemma Mimi and Minister Leanne Enoch
If you could be known for anything, what would you want to be known & remembered for?
I remember sitting in old Parliament House with the remaining original campaigners of the 1967 Referendum at the Stamp launch and thinking how different our world and country would be without them. The feeling and energy in that room was surreal. I was really really overwhelmed, lost for words and just so grateful for what they had done. They were able to make such a huge difference. They marched strong, shared their voice and rallied for our present and our future. That day put a lot into perspective for me. We have achieved so much as Aboriginal people but there is still so much to do. And all I would want to be known for is being apart of the work that is left and continue having a voice as a mixed race woman. So if my work can help make people aware and celebrate culture.. I will be very happy.
Talk through your culture with us - why do you believe it is important for Indigenous design & culture to be worn by people?
It’s so important to share culture through art and design. There’s artists that engage people with their work and what they have to say in a soft way. That gets people really excited and engaged with culture and makes them ask questions. And there’s artists that are very good at eloquently making a political statement and stating the facts. It’s that combination that really helps us as nation learn- our history is not all pretty art and dots, we also have to acknowledge the trauma. However, to shift someone’s perspective we need to create an environment for us to share our culture with all of Australia. Something that isn’t about us and them but something that’s just really just a celebration of how far we’ve come.
Plus how freaking cool is Aboriginal art!
Pretty freaking cool Rachael! Pretty freaking cool.