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Emma Hollingsworth is the young First Nations artist taking the industry by storm

Phoebe Blogg -

Whilst there may be several popular First Nations artists in Australia, few have succeeded to capture and retain the attention of all generations except Kaanju, Kuku Ya'u and Girramay woman, Emma Hollingsworth.

Known as the founder and artist behind Mulganai – her online store which she sells her designs from – the talented 26-year-old shares that whilst her designs may be viewed as impressive to many, she has been creating and painting since she was a child.

"I've been painting since I was a baby and I grew up watching my aunties and uncles creating beautiful things, and being in community I was constantly surrounded by culture and art so it was all I knew," Ms Hollingsworth said.

"In 2017 I joined a program called DYA in Meanjin for a group of Aboriginal kids to get together, create, and eventually exhibit as a group at the Queensland Museum.

"The exhibition and the support from DYA allowed me to gain confidence and soon after I started Mulganai in 2018."

Artist Emma Hollingsworth. (Image: Supplied)

When it comes to what Ms Hollingsworth specialises in and creates, there are few mediums she has not worked with. From canvas to cushion covers, her designs can be seen and purchased across a variety of garments and objects.

"My favourite medium is acrylic paint on canvas, though you'll always find me experimenting with different mediums. Last year I started painting on a suit and I think it looks fabulous," she said.

When speaking about 2023 and the projects she did work on Hollingsworth said last year was quite a big year for herself and her business.

"2023 was such an amazing year for me. I released a beautiful homewares range with the iconic Myer, which was a major milestone. I created my largest artwork to date, at 3 metres x 2 metres, for a massive global brand," Ms Hollingsworth told Style Up.

"I sent a commercial artwork to London for the first time, which is now hanging in a beautiful new office, and I had my first open studio event in my new studio/office space."

In terms of the colour-ways and patterns that cover Ms Hollingsworth's designs, the young artist confirms that these are heavily influenced by her culture.

"My heritage, my knowledge, and my memories as an Indigenous woman are intrinsically woven into every piece of art I create," she said.

"It is who I am. It's so important to me to tell my story and have my culture come through my work because it's my way of painting myself into existence, and perhaps my footprint can remain even long after I'm gone.

"It's my way of honouring my ancestors and my family, and showing the world that we are still here and we are still thriving. I take a lot of inspiration from my childhood. We grew up in the bush, and I come from a family of 8 kids, so a lot of adventures were had.

"We also travelled a lot and would often visit our mob in the cape and down south. I take inspiration from the natural world around me which brings me so much peace. I also paint a lot about my own story as a young black woman navigating this modern world."

Emma's 2023 collaboration with Myer Australia. (Image: Instagram:@mulganai)

When discussing what advice she would give to other young Indigenous artists striving to break into the creative industry, Hollingsworth notes that whilst it may be a competitive environment to work in, there is room for everyone to succeed in their own niche.

"The biggest thing would be to find your unique artistic expression! It seems very simple but to stand out you have to be different and your work has to look different. Stick to your guns and back yourself all the way," she said.

"Utilise social media and build an online presence and just be super consistent. It's important to remember there's room for all of us and one thing I always like to remember is 'if it's meant for you, it won't pass you by."

"I created an Instagram account for my art but there were only a handful of Aboriginal artists online that I knew of, so it was a very new and scary space. However, I continued building my social media for years, backed myself all the way and I haven't looked back since."

Emma working behind the scenes on one of her artworks. (Image: Instagram:@mulganai)

To see the creative industry flourish with Indigenous talent is something both Hollingsworth and her mob are thrilled to see.

"I'm seeing so many more artists around than ever before, and everywhere I go in Meanjin there's Aboriginal art around," she said.

"It makes me feel very seen and I love that our mob are getting these opportunities. There's art on clothing, art on the walls down the street, art posted up in big shopping centres.

"I'm seeing more representation than I did 5 years ago that's for sure, but I still think this is only the beginning and I hope to see even more representation."

Conscious of not giving away her next move just yet, the young artist reveals that whilst she does have several 2024 projects lined up, she is remaining tight-lipped for the moment.

"I have some exciting projects underway at the moment but I have to remain tight-lipped about them. Stay tuned for exciting things coming soon" she said.

Having already collaborated with large-scale retail conglomerates such as Myer, Hollingsworth's community and customers predict 2024 will be yet another year filled with big surprises for the proud Mulganai artist.

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