Niah Mcleod is a contemporary Indigenous artist who grew up amongst the hills of the Byron Hinterland in the charming town of Bangalow. With artist Kathrin Sharp as her mother and Aboriginal activist, poet, healer, musician and Yuin Elder Bobby McLeod as her father, the intricate details of Niah’s work reveal her native language through a visual medium.
When meeting Niah for the first time her kind energy exuded the space. It’s people like Niah that encourage kindness through example. A Mother of two, Niah balances creativity and Motherhood - with art a part of her meditative process, her work excels a sense of calm.
We are excited to share what we learned about Niah and what life is like in her shoes.
Where are you from, and how did you come to be living life as you know it?
I am From Yuin Monero, Wandandian descent, I was born in Nowra, south coast of Sydney and moved to Bangalow when I was around 2 years old with my Mum and little brother Zac. Just over five years ago I was signed with a modelling agency and working full-time in Sydney. Drawing and painting was always something to me more like meditation, a way to switch off or tune out. Within the first week of living in Sydney I took myself off to the South Coast, I needed to see my Grandmother whom I hadn’t seen since I was a baby. I met up with my Uncles, Aunties, Brothers, Sisters. Re-connecting with my family has been one of the most significant moments in my life. I looked at myself, my life a little differently, my scribbles, my drawings were more meaningful.
My first painting I’d really connected with was one I had done specifically for my Nanna Mac. After that trip, I caught the train back to North Bondi, quit my job and quit the modelling world. I entered myself into an exhibition art fair, painted my arse off for three months and sold every single piece. Whoo! Now I can pay my bills through doing something that is so intrinsically part of who I am. It is still such an extreme journey, I'm so proud of myself and of my faith in my belonging. I feel like I have blinked my eyes and I’m here now with 2 kids working full-time doing something that I don’t actually consider as work! I am still blown away every day.
Tell us a bit about Indigenous art and what it means to you?
To me it is my connection to my culture and a complete sense of belonging.
What memory signifies your first experience of art?
My grandmother worked as a midwife in a lot of the communities around Australia and would send home the most beautiful desert paintings. I also remember entering into the local Bangalow show art competition (I think it was compulsory in our year haha) I painted a dot painting of a snake and I won $10!!
Which element of creating art do you thrive off the most?
How it makes me feel. I could be in another world, happy, excited or an absolute anxious mess and it just takes me to wherever I need to be. I love how it makes other people feel and that it brings a little bit of peace to someone. That’s more than I could ask for.
What’s inspiring you right now?
Showing my kids the world, their own culture, everyone else’s culture… their brains are sponges at the moment and seeing them get excited about things and understanding things for the first time makes my heart sing.
Do you have a morning ritual?
I’m trying to have more of a morning ritual, we have just moved right on the beach so as soon and my partner and I wake up we take turns in having our morning coffees by our self at the beach. It helps us have our moment before that morning juggle with the kids!
If you could give your younger self any advice based on everything you know now, what would it be?
Appreciate your hourglass figure because you’re going to have two kids haha, no I’m really not sure. I was extremely shy and introverted. I was quite hard on myself and I didn’t need to be.