For more than ten years, Kuku Djungan woman Aunty Nicole Williams has been a constant presence, shaping the lives of young women at Carinity Education Southside in Meanjin (Brisbane).
Beyond her role as a teacher at the all-girls special assistance school, she holds a notable influence as an artist and cultural leader.
Recently, she tasked with crafting an artwork for a collection, a commission bestowed upon her by Cre8ve Nations in collaboration with Brisbane City Council.
Her commissioned artwork, titled "Reflections," is showcased in the bustling Queen Street Mall, centring on two pivotal aspects of her life: her cultural identity and a deep affection for the environment.
"The art installation is about the reflections in our lives and our connection to
country, places and space. It highlights what these relationships mean for us –
the First Nations people – and ultimately as people collectively on this planet,"
Aunty Nicole said.
"It's about the waterways, but it's also the parallels with our lives too. We go
on such a journey through life, the different changes and seasons of our lives.
"It's a statement about my commitment to nature and my commitment to the
First Nations people."
The artwork features some of Aunty Nicole's favourite creative strands,
including calligraphy transferred to repurposed metal.
She says her degradable art, which will eventually "break down and go back
into the environment", is "an extension of my determination to be a recycler".
"A lot of my art uses really simple resources, like food colouring, to create
some beautiful colours without the need to buy paint," Aunty Nicole said.
"There's a joy in knowing that a little bit of extra effort is going to create
Describing herself as a "functional artist," Aunty Nicole transcens aesthetics by instilling practical purpose into her creations.
Ranging from crafting bucket hats and carry bags using old clothing to revitalising used paper through recycling and recolouring, she consistently upholds those principles of sustainability.
Aunty Nicole extends her creative skills to empower and inspire students at Carinity Education Southside.
This involves guiding them in crafting designs and screen-printing their own t-shirts, as well as recognising value in older and discarded items.
"The reality is a lot of the young people from our school come from families
who are economically challenged," Aunty Nicole said.
"I try to instil in and inspire the young people at school that you don't have to
have all these flash things; sometimes simple things work just as effectively.
"My colleagues and I take students to the recycle shops. They can see what
wealth and resources are at their fingertips there."
Aunty Nicole is "all about economic empowerment" and inspiring the youth to
think about "financial freedom, to have a choice and have possibilities".
"Start right now. Recycle cans or make something and sell it online, through all
the social media networks that you can tap into. Put a price on it and see what
happens," she said.
Aunty Nicole's unwavering passion for art, the environment, and her culture
make her a wonderful role model for aspiring indigenous artists at Carinity Education Southside.