Telling stories through vibrant colours and intricate designs is not only therapy for Phyllis, a proud Ngarrindjeri woman from the Fleurieu Peninsula, but also a way of preserving her culture for future generations.
As a teen, Phyllis found her passion for art and went on to complete four years of art school through Tauondi Aboriginal Community College. There, she nurtured her skills and embraced her culture.
“I’m just drawn to art,” Phyllis said. “I was a child who always had a pen and would be doodling. I just love it, it’s my therapy.”
In 1998, Phyllis experienced a car accident that resulted in serious injuries to her neck, back and shoulder. It took her years to get back on her feet but rediscovering her passion for painting helped with her recovery.
"Painting helps me with pain. It helps me to keep my mind off things and it helps me to keep focused. This is my escape."
That said, Phyllis’ creativity isn’t limited to canvas. She is also a talented seamstress, sculptor, beader and crocheter. She learned many of these skills from her mother.
Phyllis has turned her spare bedroom into an artistic sanctuary – full of artworks in progress. Whenever she is experiencing pain or trauma, she finds comfort in playing music and shutting the studio door to the outside world.
“I’m not tidy, I come out with paint in my hair,” she said. “Sometimes I will be in here until 5am. It’s easy to lose track of time when you enjoy what you’re doing.”
Now, more than ever, Phyllis is determined to share her culture with her six grandchildren. In addition to her art, she has also been tasked with designing the family cookbook to share and preserve traditional recipes handed down from her parents.