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Behind the headdress - the rise and rise of Indigenous creative Sammy Wyborn

Rhiannon Clarke -

Sammy Wyborn has always been drawn to the creative side of life, expressing herself through art, photography, crafting and many other mixed media.

A Djugun, Yawuru and Bardi Jawi woman, Wyborn spent most of her life living in Rububi (Broome) with her family.

As a young child she watched and learned as her mother painted and sold art at the courthouse markets, something Wyborn herself started following.

But with bills to pay, Wyborn couldn't afford to pursue her artistic dreams full time, leaving her to paint and sell her art from home.

'Separation to Conform', winning piece from the Broome Shinju Photographic awards 2016

Many years would pass until the opportunity to open her first art studio transpired in December 2021 in the Boorloo (Perth) riverside suburb of Guilford.

Opening her own studio is something Wyborn had always dreamt off to create a safe space to empower Aboriginal kids through art.

"To help young artists learn the valve of their own artwork and from that the value of their own self, As Aboriginal people it's already hard to value ourselves," Wyborn said.

"I have a lot of niece's and nephews who are deadly little artist, but there is nowhere for them to go.

"So I've got this place here in my gallery where I provide them that, for the young ones."

Wyborn's workshops incorporate cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation as away of teaching the truth of Aboriginal history.

Clients come from all walks of life, wanting to learn more about Aboriginal art and history through Wyborn.

She educates the wider community about emotional topics by yarning and showing them how to tell their own story through their paintings.

"A lot of people don't know the truth of our first nation people, they sit there with a shocked look on their face, but then they walk away with the awareness," Wyborn said.

Ivy Vinci in the Boola Bardip Gown.

It is through her art sessions Wyborn plants the seed into her non Indigenous participants.

From there it is their responsibility to create strong connections within their own community with the knowledge they gained through the workshop.

"When they finish their story that they paint, they now have a tangible item that they take home," Wyborn said.

"When they have visitors it becomes a conversation started and from there they will speak from what I have spoken."

When it comes to her Indigenous clients, Wyborn acknowledges every tribe has a different way of painting which should be embraced.

"What I am teaching you may not be your people's way" Wyborn said

"But when you're older and when you are ready, you will have the confidence to go back to your mob and learn your way.

"(I am) setting the foundation for them."

Sammy with Miss and Mr NAIDOC's of 2022

Besides her art business, Wyborn has a collection of achievements to her name, from hand-painting a gown now in Boola Bardip Museum to winning the Shinju Photography award in 2016.

Yet her most recent achievement is being the first Aboriginal women to hand craft this year's Mr and Miss NAIDOC crowns.

But things weren't always easy when it came to pursing her dreams; at some point Wyborn thought she was sending her family backwards finically.

"It was honestly the hardest decision of my life, but I know deep in my soul what I am providing for our Indigenous people as a whole, and creating awareness in our community," she said.

"It's worth it, I just have to keep pushing through."

Wyborn's studio isn't just about art, it's a community for young Indigenous kids from everywhere to be apart of a space where they can leave their shame factor at the door.

To fully embrace their culture and grow as an artist by connecting to their Aboriginal heritage.

Unfortunately Wyborn lost both of her parents before she got the chance to open her first art studio, something her mother always wanted to do herself.

In her own way of honouring them, she opened her studio in homage to her parents.


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