Tell us a little bit about yourself and how your journey lead you to your sand artistry today?
My name's Lowell Hunter, I’m a proud Nyul Nyul Saltwater Man from the Kimberley’s in WA, just north of Broome to be exact. We are saltwater people so from a young age I grew up on country with my family but then relocated to live with my father and grew up in a place called Warrnambool, Gunditjmara country. I now live and work on the land of the Wathaurong people, located just near Torquay in Victoria. I'm a father three boys & we live with my partner in Armstrong Creek.
My journey has been one that hasn't been straightforward. Growing up in Warrnambool was a really good experience for me, I was able to grow up in a community that was really strong in nurturing everyone, regardless of whether you were mob from that area or not. Although in a way I was disconnected from my own mob and lands, I was fortunate to grow up with elders and role models that helped shape the way in which I understood what it meant to be Aboriginal and how I understood and connected to country and culture.
I learnt dance at a really young age, from 11 years old I was a part of an Aboriginal dance group and that really helped develop that strong sense of connection to culture for me. It was something that I really grabbed on to from a young age and something that I proud of, and that’s always followed me throughout my life.
I dropped out of school in year nine, I felt disengaged from the education system and probably wasn't well supported as a lot of our young people still aren’t today. The education system isn't built for us in a lot of ways and doesn't value our cultural values either so when you're forced to learn in an environment that isn't exactly representative of who you are or what is important to you, it's difficult for you to engage in that system.
After years working as a qualified plasterer, I realised I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was subjected to racism in the work site on several occasions and really felt like that wasn’t a safe place for me.
I knew a lot of my community members and elders were working quite passionately with community and I saw myself doing that so that's what I eventually got into - working with our young people experiencing similar journeys like me, feeling disconnected from culture and leaving the education system.
I've spent about 15 years working across several different sectors in Aboriginal education, employment and justice. In the last four or five years, I’ve used that knowledge and experience and developed my own consultancy business with my brother-in-law, so it's been quite a journey.
Prior to COVID I was dancing a lot with my Brother Boys, but that was cut off during COVID restrictions and I was feeling quite isolated not being able to share our stories and connecting. Creating sand art at my local beaches was a new way to continue telling my stories and representing my lived experiences as an Aboriginal man.
Where did your sand art stem from?
During COVID I was just out photographing and filming with my drone down at Bells Beach and I felt the urge to do some sand art. It came about after having conducted a cultural awareness training session that afternoon. I talk a lot about my personal journey and personal trauma I’ve experienced through my life, which takes a lot out of me and getting out on Country and being present brings me back to feeling myself. That’s when I thought - well what does it mean to be culturally safe? To me, feeling culturally safe is where there's no judgement of me, I can just be me, be present, connect to Country and connect to my ancestors.
I decided to draw a circle and draw these ‘U’ shapes that represent ancestors and I sat myself in that circle and in that moment, I felt ‘this is it for me.’ That’s where sand art stemmed & grew from, it was really organic. I put my drone up and then ended up putting that image on my Facebook that night and people were just really blown away by that visual.
How does your artistry help connect you to country?
I’ve always been strong and proud in my identity and who I am. I have a deep connection to country. Learning from Gunditjmara people at a young age helped develop a strong sense of needing that throughout my life.
For me, Country is a way of healing and letting go of negative things. Country never judges. It can be the biggest healer in our lives and whenever I've had to deal with stuff, I’ve always had that constant relationship with the ocean where I've been present and just allow myself to let go of everything.
Did you always see yourself as an artist?
Not in terms of drawing or painting, no. It's not something that was handed down to me. I dabbled in it a little bit, but dance was a big part of my upbringing. I've been dancing all my life. Dancing is another way of sharing and creating stories with people and connecting to culture and Country.
Do you have any exciting plans in the works for 2022?
I hope to travel across the Country and work on some more art collaborations with local Aboriginal artists. I’d love to listen and learn about local Mobs and their stories and connection to Country. I’m also hoping to develop more community programs, working with young people and helping them understand what I do and learn how to connect back to Country and tell their own unique stories through artwork.
Do you have a go-to shoe & what do you usually look for in a good shoe?
I look for quality & style. I’ve been drawn to Wild Rhino styles for a while now. Comfort is a big thing for me, previously I’ve had to dress up for work, and walk in something all day. Looking good is great but comfort is the biggest thing.
A pair of Wild Rhinos you can’t take of?
The Panama boots. I love an inside zip to make life easy. I’m also keen on the sandals Mannix and Reef, slide them on and head down to the beach.
Early bird or night owl?
Definitely early bird
Drink of choice?
Bundaberg ginger beer
Favourite song at the moment?
Cold heart (the remix) by Elton John
Introvert or Extrovert?