Artist Profile: Emily Johnson, Biri Gubi/Waka Waka/Barkindji
Can you please tell us about yourself, where are you from and who are your people?
I’m Emily Johnson, 23 years old and I live in Sydney but grew up in Broken Hill, NSW. My Mum is Biri Gubi Waka Waka from Cherbourg, QLD and my Dad is Barkindji from Wilcannia, Far Western NSW.
How would you describe your art style?
Probably cartoon or Japanese manga style illustration.
What is title of the artwork and can you please explain the story behind it?
“Native Pride” (2016), is a painting of myself and my parent’s totems behind me. 70,000+ years of strength, one of the oldest living human cultures in the world. My mother’s totem is native bee and my father is Wedge Tailed Eagle and they will always protect and guide me.
What inspires you to create your artwork?
As a kid I was always mad on cartoons and my art is a response to a lifetime
of being fed up with the lack of black characters, especially black female characters, on the screen or in comic books and video games. I’m focused on portraying Aboriginal female lead characters in a way I wish I could’ve seen them when I was growing up.
How does your artwork reflect Aboriginal lives (past, present or future)?
I think it’s really important to be proud of culture and know your dreaming and totems and spirits; I like to illustrate Bilyara (Wedge Tailed Eagle in Barkindji) along with scifi and fantasy elements from popular culture – kind of representing how I exist within two worlds as an Aboriginal woman in the 21st century at the same time.
Do you have any advice for any other young Aboriginal artists wanting to tell their story through art?
Don’t be shame and be bold in your ideas. Any creative dreams you have; go and do it. Your voice and how you see the world matters because you are our future!
What life lessons have you depicted through your art?
I think it promotes a sense of pride of culture and spirituality as well as representing black female empowerment.
Image: Native Pride, Emily Johnson 2016