By Ashlei Major
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you are from and your people?
My name is Ashlei Major, I’m 18 years old and was raised in Hughenden, a small town five hours west of Townsville where I currently live. I do not know much about my people and about my family, I did not grow up with much knowledge of who I am culturally, I am still finding my roots.
What is the title of the painting and can you explain your story behind it?
My painting is called “Who am I?”. It is a triptych piece (divided into three parts), with two other water colour paintings with an incorporation of sand art underneath the three paintings. It is about Aboriginal culture and how through the generations, our culture has been slowly lost due to devastating circumstances and events in the past.
Was there anything in particular that inspired this painting?
What inspired me to tell this story was my personal experience. It was a reflection of my life culturally and how I viewed the world as an Aboriginal adolescent.
Why did you feel compelled to draw David Gulpilil?
I did a portrait of David Gulpilil as he is an Aboriginal elder, and the other two portraits are two younger generations. He has also acted in many prominent Aboriginal movies and films and is very well known within the white Australian society, as well as the Aboriginal community.
In what way do you feel your perspective of the painting reflects Aboriginal society
Aboriginal society is very strong in our culture. But throughout the years and from the effects of the pain, trauma and displacement, we are losing the richness of our traditions across the generations. Although our ancestor’s teachings and stories have been slowly fading away, it is the younger generations bringing our culture together in more of a modern way. We are creating a new destiny for our culture and for our traditions to be seen in a contemporary way.
Do you have any advice for any other young indigenous artists wanting to tell their
story through art?
All I can say is, paint, draw, and sketch your feelings and emotions. It does not have to be traditional art paintings such as dot painting. Just let your mind and emotions flow with the pencils and brushes to create your view of our culture today.
What have been your achievement and awards to date?
I entered the Maggie’s Archibald Price similar to the Archibald Prize where we had to draw a portrait of a particular subject and won that competition in 2014. I entered the ArtNOW competitions at Pinnacles Gallery in both 2014 and 2015, receiving the encouragement award in 2015. I also received the Cathy Meharry Art Acquisition Award at the St Margaret Mary’s College Awards Night in 2015.
Do you have a specific artwork Facebook page/website so that our readers can
follow or view more of your artistry?
People can head on over to my Facebook page under Ashlei Major Artist and check out my other pieces https://www.facebook.com/Ashlei-Major-1024059941021080/