Introducing Jacinta-Rai Ridgeway-Maahs

Introducing Jacinta-Rai Ridgeway-Maahs

For as long as she can remember, Jacinta-Rai Ridgeway-Maahs has been surrounded by art.

As a girl, she would sit and watch her grandfather, cousins and uncles paint. Spread out before her were the stories and culture of her ancestors, the Worimi people, whose land spans the NSW coastline from Forster to the north and Maitland to the south. That tradition of storytelling through art is alive and well in Jacinta-Rai, although she never received any formal training in the arts. “Indigenous art comes naturally to us,” she says, with a casual shrug of the shoulders. “It is part of who we are.”

Yet her art lay dormant for a long time. Jacinta-Rai didn’t even begin painting until she was twenty-eight. “My daughter became ill and I couldn’t do much, so I started painting. It was a form of meditation to me.” Thinking about her own growing family, forced her to reflect on her own place in a much larger family, going back generations. “All the stories I tell through my art are from back home. I think about my family. I paint Worimi country, stories from my pop.”

Like a sprouting seed, her art broke the surface and she has never looked back. These days, she is an emerging artist, following in the footsteps of her grandfather and his ancestors before him. This continuity is extremely important. So much of the Indigenous experience is told through song, story and art, and according to Jacinta-Rai, it is crucial that these customs be kept alive. “There is so much people can learn from our stories. One day, I would love to run art workshops in schools. I’d love to paint with kids, talk about paintings, and let them add their fingerprints to the art.” She gestures to the various artworks hanging on the walls, some framed, others incomplete, a work in progress. “If we can educate young people about our culture, well… that is what keeps it alive.”

Her identity as an Indigenous woman permeates every aspect of her art. She is a proud Worimi woman who is living almost a thousand kilometres to the north in Butchulla (Hervey Bay). This distance and time spent away from home has influenced the aesthetic she developed under the watchful eye of her grandfather and uncles. While her art captures the Worimi spirit, it also embraces the earthy tones, peachy pinks, pastels and bold colours of her new home to create vivid depictions of country, community, culture and family. There is a certain vibrancy to Jacinta-Rai’s style. It feels contemporary, bursting with life and colour. It is uniquely Indigenous, and at the same time, universal to the human experience.

“My favourite artwork?” She looks around again at the designs in the studio. She clicks her tongue, and frowns. Almost immediately, she lights up. “The Dreaming,” she beams. “I love the colours, the brightness of it all… It’s about how we make our mark on earth while we are here, and then we go on dreaming afterwards. It’s not the end, we just continue onwards.”

Koh Living is incredibly proud to bring Jacinta-Rai’s art into homes all around the country. Her designs - ‘Home’, ‘Journeys in the Sun’, ‘Together Again’ and ‘Tree of Life’ - can be found on a variety of unique and beautiful products in our upcoming range, many of which are made in Australia.

There is something beautifully contemplative about Jacinta-rai’s art. It is a visual meditation. With every symbol, dash and dot comes a quiet relaxation.