Q&A with Earth Greetings artist Ryhia Dank / Nardurna; A contemporary take on traditional storywork.

Author: Heide Hackworth   Date Posted:7 September 2021 

I asked Contemporary Aboriginal artist, and proud Gudanji/Wakaja woman Ryhia Dank to tell us more about how she developed her own unique art style she calls: Nardurna.

When Ryhia's love of contemporary design collided with the Gudanji/Wakaja traditions handed down to her by her Granny, something beautiful happened.

Q: Can you tell me about your upbringing and heritage, and the influence that this has had on your art?

Ryhia: I am Gudanji/Wakaja and I grew up on Country in Borroloola, NT, an Indigenous community about ten hours South-East of Darwin and completely remote! Growing up with all of my family I learnt our stories, how to hunt and live off our Country as well as going through our ceremonies. My greatest influence was always my Granny, she was the one who said I can paint.

Q. Where did you learn to paint, and did it take long to develop your own style?

Ryhia: I never really “learnt” how to paint though I have a background in graphic design and have always been creative. I was creatively influenced by seeing my Grannies and other family members painting our Gudanji art though I never painted myself until Covid hit and I asked permission from my Granny. I made my first piece and shared it to socials in May 2020 and it took off, I had requests for orders right away and nardurna was born!

Q. What is your biggest inspiration?

Ryhia: First was definitely my Granny, she was tough as and taught me everything I know! Second is design, I love all things design! From architecture to furniture, paint to film, I am always finding inspiration in everything!

Q. Describe your typical day.

Ryhia: Up at 4:30-5:00am

Head down to the beach for a 5-10km walk, get a coffee and watch the sunrise

Home, breakfast, check my emails and reply to socials

Plan my day Work on some paintings for a few hours periodically replying to socials

Grab some lunch, check the emails and socials

Do some digital work on my iPad

Head to the gym for an hour and a bit, reply to socials while a cooldown on the treadmill

Home to do some more painting for a few hours

Prep the day’s orders for next day shipping

Start putting something together for dinner

Normally a call with my Sister in Dubai (@Lajarri)

Jump in bed and work on my digital work More emails and socials

Sleep around 9:00-9:30pm

It’s a big day with my average screen time sitting at around 6-7 hours per day which is mostly spent replying to messages and comments on socials.

Q. How do you find the right balance between being both a creative and business person?

Ryhia: I find it best to be as organised as possible and use the digital tools available to me! Google is your best friend, in my opinion, I schedule everything, my life is organised months in advance, this helps keep me productive but also ensures I can book time for myself whether it’s a massage, a few hours at the beach or a catch up with friends.

Q. What advice would you give aspiring artists who are just starting out?

Ryhia: Being creative is amazing and there is a MASSIVE market for our work but there are only so many hours in the day and we cant create for all of them so finding simple solutions to ensure there is passive income is important, the days of the struggling artist are long gone! One of the first things I put in place early was quality digital fine art prints, these are an artist’s best friend, in my opinion, I work with Left Bank Art Group who take care of my prints from start to finish ensuring I have my time to paint! I would also strongly suggest collaborating with other creators and businesses outside the creative space, I have been fortunate enough to have worked with a lot of organisations from small independents on handmade products all the way up to the big ones like Google, Pinterest and Budgy Smuggler.

Q. What do you do when you are taking a break from making art?

Ryhia: I get outside! I love the outdoors, I get to the beach as often as I can! And, at least once a year I head to the NT and go home to Country, that’s my favourite place in the world.

Thanks Ryhia for sharing your incredible story with me. You can see more of Ryhia's work on her website nardurna.com and explore our Nardurna Range here.

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