Q&A With Bobbi Lockyer

Q&A With Bobbi Lockyer

The BMHQ office is located in Banyo, Brisbane. We would first like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the Turrbal and Jagera peoples. We pay our respects to the elders past, present and emerging and acknowledge their continued connection to the land, water and culture of this area. You can see a Map of Indigenous Australia here.

In celebration of 2023’s “For Our Elders”-themed NAIDOC week, we teamed up with Ngarluma, Kariyarra, Nyulnyul and Yawuru artist Bobbi Lockyer to create a six-piece capsule collection showcasing Australia’s natural beauty and indigenous history.

We’re also donating 10% of all sales from the first week of the collection to the Pay The Rent Grassroots Collective.

About Bobbi Lockyer

Bobbi Lockyer is an Aboriginal artist in love with rainbows and colour. She is obsessed with the ocean and considers herself a true mermaid queen. 

Born and based on Kariyarra Country in Port Hedland, Bobbi’s work blends her love for her community and dream for a better world with her creative soul and passion for her homeland, with all the amazing colours and iconic Pilbara landscapes that inspire her daily.

Bobbi is a proud Ngarluma, Kariyarra, Nyulnyul and Yawuru woman, raising her four boys on the land that raised her. She feels a deep affinity for country and community and uses her art, fashion and photography as a platform to raise awareness of social justice issues, including Indigenous rights and women’s rights. 

Recently, Bobbi was named the winner of the prestigious National NAIDOC Week Poster Competition for 2023.

We asked Bobbi a few questions to find out more about her artwork, her inspirations, and her connection to country.

Pom-Pom Flowers

What is the significance of NAIDOC week?

NAIDOC Week holds deep significance for me and my community. It is a time when we come together to celebrate the rich history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. One of the most important aspects of NAIDOC Week is the chance for all Australians to learn about and appreciate the diverse cultures and histories of First Nations people. For me, NAIDOC Week is a time of immense pride. It’s a reminder of the resilience, strength, and wisdom that have been passed down through generations. It’s a celebration of our survival, our connection to the land, and our ongoing contributions to society. During this week, we come together as a community, honouring our ancestors, and cherishing the bonds that tie us all.

NAIDOC Week also serves as a platform for us to address the challenges and issues that our communities face. It’s an opportunity to advocate for social justice, equality, and recognition of Indigenous rights. Through various events, discussions, and activities, we raise awareness and promote positive change.

It is a reminder of our cultural strength and the importance of passing down our traditions to future generations.

How long have you been creating art?

Creating art has been a lifelong passion for me, nurtured by my amazingly creative mother. She taught me the ropes of drawing, sewing, and painting, instilling in me a deep appreciation for artistic expression. My six siblings and I were encouraged to explore, unleash our imagination, and discover our connection to the world through art. 

After high school, I ventured into the world of graphic design and took on freelance design projects. My dad, an entrepreneur at heart, played a pivotal role in guiding me towards starting my own graphic design business. He made sure I learnt the essentials of running a successful business, such as handling contracts and having a business plan.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have transformed my love for art into a fulfilling career, where I can share my creations with others. It brings me immense joy to know that my art resonates with people, just as it resonates with me.

What are you inspired by?

The heart and soul of my art lie in the country that has shaped me. Growing up in Kariyarra country has deeply influenced my artistic expression. The breathtaking colours of the landscape, from the iconic red dirt to the crystal-clear oceans, serve as a constant inspiration for me. Whether it’s observing the tiny imprints left by playful crabs in the sand, admiring the intricate patterns in coral, or marvelling at the vibrant hues of seashells, the ocean captivates me.

Many of my artworks are rooted in the stories passed down to me by my grandparents and my mother. These stories carry the wisdom, traditions, and cultural heritage of our ancestors, and I feel a deep responsibility to honour and preserve them through my art.

I also draw inspiration from my own experiences as a mother, exploring the profound journey of pregnancy and motherhood. My children are a huge inspiration in my creativity. Their innocent and wondrous perspective on the world constantly amazes me. Seeing life through their eyes reminds me of the magic that lies in the simplest things, igniting my creativity in ways I never thought possible.

Saltwater Dreaming

How do you create your artworks? What is your creative process?

It all begins with a sketch, whether it’s on a piece of paper or on my phone. This initial step helps me explore different elements and colours, giving me a clear direction before I delve into the next medium.

Once I have a solid concept in mind, I enjoy the liberating feeling of taking a paintbrush to canvas. In some cases, I experiment with creating unique textures and prints using paint, capturing them through photography, and then adding digital lines and forms to enhance the overall composition.

I find it hard to put down my tools and instead continue to create until my hands ache and my heart is full. I pay attention to intricate details, infusing each piece with stories that make it truly special.

What does your chosen charity mean to you?

Pay The Rent is important to me as it addresses the deep-rooted disparities faced by Indigenous people, particularly in the aftermath of colonisation and assimilation. In Australia, our nation was built upon land that was unjustly taken from the Indigenous people. It is crucial to recognise that this land was never empty, and the sovereignty of First Nations people was never ceded. The resulting wealth and resources derived from this theft have been disproportionately distributed, creating an ongoing cycle of disadvantage for First Nations people.

Paying the Rent is an important step towards acknowledging these historical and ongoing injustices. It is part of a broader process that requires all non-Indigenous individuals, both individually and collectively, to actively engage in if we are to progress towards justice, truth, equality, and liberation for First Nations people. By supporting Pay The Rent we contribute to a journey of reconciliation, where we confront the truths of our past and work towards a more equitable and inclusive future for all.

Buriya Birra

Do any of the artworks that we are featuring have any special meaning or stories connected with them that you would like to share?

Pom-Pom Flowers: This piece depicts the pink pom-pom-shaped paper flowers that flourish along the beaches and inland areas of the Pilbara and Kimberley. These flowers hold a special place in my childhood memories of spending time along the coast in Port Hedland. I recall their beauty, dotting the landscape with delicate pink hues against the backdrop of the vast blue ocean. As a child, I would pick these flowers, creating garlands and collecting them when dried to scatter their seeds everywhere, fostering their growth.

Saltwater Dreaming: This painting portrays an oceanscape of the Pilbara coast in Kariyarra country. Kariyarra country, specifically Marapikurrinya, which is also known as Port Hedland, is my beloved home. Through the stories shared by my mother and Elders, I have learned about the vibrant and thriving nature of the lands in the past. This artwork pays homage to the saltwater and its intricate and flourishing ecosystem, which provided sustenance for the Aboriginal people who lived and thrived on Kariyarra country. Marapikurrinya, aptly named “place of good water,” refers to the tidal creeks in the formation of a hand, symbolising abundance and the richness of life.

Buriya Birra: Translated as “rainbow shells” in Ngarluma language, this painting showcases the colourful seashells found at Murujuga and the Ngarluma coast. Each shell carries stories of its own, as they were not only used for adornment and trade but also held significance in our Ancestors’ lives. Shellfish played a vital role in their diets, while large baler shells served as containers for fresh water. Smaller shells, especially those with a pearly interior, were cherished for their beauty and used in jewellery and decorative pieces. These shells represented not only cultural value but also served as a form of currency in trade.

Each of these artworks carries within it a piece of my personal history, cultural connections, and the profound relationship between the land, sea, and the lives of the Indigenous people. They serve as visual storytellers, reminding us of the beauty, resilience, and richness of our heritage.

What advice would you give to young Indigenous artists?

I wholeheartedly embrace the concept of community over competition, especially in the age of social media where competition seems to be everywhere. My belief is that we are all unique individuals with our own artistic voice, and there is no need to compare ourselves to others. Comparison really does kill joy. Instead of focusing on what everyone else is doing, my advice is simple: Just be yourself.

When you allow yourself to authentically express who you are and create art from your soul, your work will shine with originality. Your art is a reflection of your own experiences, perspectives, and stories, and that is what makes it truly special. No one else can be you, and that is your superpower.

For me, staying true to myself and creating art that tells my own story is of utmost importance. I am driven by a sense of purpose to contribute to my community, to inspire my children, and to fulfil my own creative desires. When you create with a genuine intention and connection to your grassroots, your work becomes a powerful expression of your identity and values.

Share a fun fact about yourself!

I am obsessed with mermaids and I collect seashells and have been collecting them since I was a little girl.