With intricate dots and bold strokes of magenta and bright blue, Akweke Stories shares the journey of proud Arrernte and Luritja woman, Michelle Kerrin.

Kerrin studied and resides in Naarm (Melbourne). She now works for Richmond Football Club and the Korin Gamadji Institute as a program leader.

Kerrin first started her creative venture as a part of her healing journey.

“I went through a stage of struggling with depression and anxiety quite bad. And I needed a coping mechanism … to release all the stuff that was going on inside, and the only way that I could think of was to put it down on paper,” Kerrin told NIT.

“I just started drawing from there. And drawing a lot of symbols that I’ve learned over the years from my mob and community.

“So from then, I’ve been creating artwork when I’m not feeling well, or when I need a release.”

Kerrin said storytelling is something “innate” within her as an Aboriginal woman and an artist, with personal stories naturally embedded into each work.

Akweke means “small, little bit” in Arrernte language, and Kerrin calls her art her “lil wun stories”. Each piece tells a different part of her story.

Inspired by her Yaye (big sister), one of Kerrin’s earlier pieces is titled Jamie and tells a story about dreams, community, and living up to two identities.

 

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A post shared by Michelle Kerrin (@akweke_stories)

“My Jamie piece was one of the first ones that I put out. And I think a lot of people connected with it immediately,” Kerrin said.

“It actually just came about when one of my sisters asked me to do a painting for her. And so, I just started drawing and using colours that I thought would go well. And then from discussions about her life … it came into this idea of having two parts of ourselves as Blackfullas.

“We work for ourselves and we want to succeed in life as individuals, but we also have a responsibility in our own communities.”

“We’ve got multiple identities that we need to live up to … as Blackfullas in community.”

Kerrin said her sister, Jamie, conveys these notions in all she does.

“She’s the one who actually inspired me to start Akweke Stories. She was the one who just said, ‘Go and do it’, and motivated me to actually start my website,” she said.

“It wouldn’t be there without her.”

Born and raised on the lands of the Larrakia people in Darwin, Kerrin returned home last year during the pandemic. To keep busy, she leaned into her art and created a series of five artworks titled The Essence of Home that tells a story of future growth in connecting with home.

 

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A post shared by Michelle Kerrin (@akweke_stories)

“I’ve lived on that Country for many years of my life. And I think in a way, it calls me a lot of time,” she said.

“I wanted to create a feeling at that moment of being back home and looking around and feeling comfortable and okay. And my mind was at ease at that point, because I was home.

“The series of five came about just because I did one piece and it wasn’t enough, so I just kept going until I had no more in me of what the feeling of home was.”

Kerrin said the most rewarding thing about sharing and selling her art through Akweke Stories is being able to connnect with others.

“Stories that they’ve gotten to tell me … it makes me feel like I’m not so alone,” she said.

“We’re all dealing with our own stuff, and it makes me feel like I can get through another day.”

By Grace Crivellaro