The impact of COVID-19 on Australian businesses and the economy has been immense, especially for those in arts and culture. As a society, Australians are avid consumers of art, whether live performances, or artwork displayed in galleries and exhibitions. Even though restrictions are easing in some parts of the country, opportunities to physically view and purchase art are still severely limited – and this is causing huge difficulties for independent artists and especially for artists within the Aboriginal community.
As a business, Koh Living has chosen to create art-inspired gift-ware that is meaningful and brings joy to others, with many special Australian themes. Our beautiful gift-ware designs are based on the work of several Australian artists, including Kathleen Buzzacott, a descendant of the Pitjantjatjara People. Koh Living is proud to partner with Kathleen as a member of Art Code, and a passionate supporter of Aboriginal Art.
Talented independent artists like Kathleen are solely reliant on the sale of their art pieces as income. That’s why it is so very important to us that we promote and support Aboriginal artists right now. Koh Living is honoured to be able to offer our beautiful art-inspired gift-ware for sale and do our part to support artists through this difficult time.
Timeless art drawn from stories of the land
Aboriginal Art is so rich and incredibly diverse - one of the many reasons we love to feature this style in our Koh Living product range. All over Australia, different Aboriginal Peoples have their own way of telling stories. From older people who have just begun painting in their twilight years to emerging young talent, each artist has their own style of expression and their own way of telling stories.
“Aboriginal Art is one of the best sources of economic development for Aboriginal people living in communities and it is a movement that keeps on growing,” says Kathleen. Beginning a career as an artist came naturally for Kathleen, who says her greatest influence has been her sister. “I first started painting with my sister in 1994, and my aunt and cousins are also painters. All of them paint very neatly, so I always thought that was how it was supposed to be done and followed in their footsteps.”
Kathleen is of Pitjantjatjara descent and grew up with her family in a remote Aboriginal community in Central Australia. Her designs are inspired by life experiences in a time free of modern technology. Treasured family times were spent out bush on hunting trips, searching for bush tucker, seeking out desert waterholes and playing with desert creatures. Kathleen still lives in the bush with her husband and their two sons, on his maternal land west of Alice Springs. Kathleen says her favourite themes for painting are family hunting and gathering stories and children’s stories. “I tell the stories that I know - stories of living in the bush. I have so many happy memories about my life, therefore I paint what makes me happy,” she said.
Aboriginal Art creates an emotional connection
As an artist, Kathleen is an inspiration. She is a storyteller at heart, and uses her gifts to celebrate her love of this land. “Through my painting, I have learnt a lot about myself. I have learnt that being an Aboriginal person is something worth celebrating and that is reflected in my work, as a storyteller.” Art means many different things to different people, but for Kathleen it is about people being moved and touched by her art – knowing that there has been a strong connection. “I enjoy people’s reactions to my paintings as a lot of love goes into them. I have even had people cry tears of joy to see them. That to me makes it all worth it, to see people happy. When they have my artwork in their home, each time they look at it, it will always make them feel good inside. That´s my legacy.”
Painting through the COVID crisis
During the COVID crisis, many businesses have had to quickly adapt the way they market and sell their products and move online, if they were not already selling this way. Kathleen says that Aboriginal artists were no exception. “Aboriginal artists have not stopped producing art during the COVID crisis. Many independent artists went online to sell their works, and many artists in the bio security protected areas continue to produce artworks on their communities. “When this is all over and we return to some sort of new normal, we will see a lot of beautiful artworks coming out of the Aboriginal Art community that were created during this time of crisis.” .......
....... With a business focussed on tourism, Kathleen is not sure when or even if her business will return to normal. “I don’t think any of us know how this is going to pan out. I will stay positive, and keep selling on Facebook for the time being. “Here in the NT we have to go through an online COVIDSafe checklist before we can reopen. But with no tourists about, I am not in a hurry. I am focusing on getting my shed built and applying for Government grants. I can’t rely on locals to stay afloat. “I don’t fear, I adapt. Fear has never been a part of who I am.”
“If you love Aboriginal Art and Design, please continue to support us”
As an independent artist, Kathleen’s art is her livelihood. Due to the impact of COVID-19, her income has fallen 75%. “My business was forced to close and I have had to dip into my super, apply for Government survival funds and now Jobkeeper to stay afloat.
The royalties I receive from Koh Living has also provided some much needed income. “If you love Aboriginal Art and Design, please continue to support us. “Art is the main source of working income for Aboriginal people living in the remote communities of Australia. We must keep this vital industry alive, even in uncertain times like these. Aboriginal Art is so much more that pretty pictures. It is a vehicle for passing on knowledge through storytelling to the next generations.” The way you can support us is through the purchase of our art works, which you can easily find online, and also our collaborative works that we have with companies like Koh Living. That way we can keep creating the beauty that brings joy into the lives so many.