Just outside Alice Springs, Yia Nuka is a coffee, cake and creative culture experience with talented Indigenous artist Kathleen Buzzacott.
A poet, artist, designer and entrepreneur, Kathleen Buzzacott has made jewellery for the Duchess of Cambridge, collaborated to put her designs on homewares and created an award-winning toilet.
A proud Pitjantjatjara and Western Arrernte woman of Scottish and English heritage, she works from her studio in the West MacDonnell Range foothills outside Alice Springs. At a long table in the centre of this stylishly decorated space, Kathy paints, runs workshops and shares her story.
Kathleen Buzzacott Art Studio in the West MacDonnell Range, NT
When I pull up outside her door after a busy day exploring the Red Centre Way loop from Alice Springs for a Yia Nuka Aboriginal Culture experience, there’s a broad smile and warm welcome to greet me.
The Kathleen Buzzacott Art Studio opened in 2014, named both after Kathy and as a tribute to her late mother-in-law, another Kathleen Buzzacott. Created from an old shed, it has been improved and expanded into a comfortable workspace and gallery decorated with Kathy’s vibrant paintings and designer’s style.
These are the traditional lands where Kathy’s husband Keith, and sons Kyle and Klinton, have lived with the rest of the family for the past 25 years. The studio opening came from Kathy’s desire to create a family business where she could offer her art direct to the public and visitors could learn about Aboriginal culture.
Her work features very fine, layered work in the Central Desert Dot Painting style. It is a technique Kathy has perfected over a quarter of a century to tell the stories of her life. The subjects include pink and grey galahs and bright green budgerigars, cheeky finches, spiny desert creatures, family hunting trails and children’s stories. A triptych of red-tailed black cockatoos cruising above the red desert and wise white owls hang on the studio walls.
Designing for Koh Living and Allegria Designs
Successful collaborations with Australian companies such as Koh Living and Allegria Designs have seen Buzzacott art on mugs, coasters, candle holders and a jewellery range. You’ll also see her distinctive style in cement imprints and balcony dividers at Alice Springs Lasseters Hotel Casino. But none of these can compare to an achievement that’s closer to home.
“One of the greatest joys of my artistic career was winning Best Design in the Inaugural 2017 International My Travel Research Tourism Toilet Awards,” she says of the facilities here, designed as a talking point for studio visitors. “A lot of hours went into carefully choosing the colours and the design. The doors feature my signature dot painting style inside and out.”
Yia Nuka Aboriginal Culture experience
Chatting with Kathy is like spending an afternoon with an old friend sharing tales about her childhood. In Kathy’s studio the Yia Nuka (‘my story’) tales centre around her early life growing up with her father’s family in Queensland, returning to live in the Hermannsburg community at the age of 10, and exploring her Pitjantjatjara, Scottish and English heritage.
Her joy in returning to outback Hermannsburg and life with her mother’s people is intense, and she delights in sharing the wonders of this rich culture.
“I have so many people from all over the world visit my studio,” says Kathy. “One of the most common things visitors say is that they would like to meet Aboriginal people. So, I created Yia Nuka to give them a fun and active culture experience.”
Selecting hand-painted beads and seeds from a basket and threading them together to create a bracelet or key fob is an engaging activity. I’m pleased with my colourful finished bracelet and the Alice Springs memories it holds.
Supporting the local community through art
Yia Nuka also supports the broader local Indigenous community. Kathy sources her deliciously thick slices of afternoon tea cake from Raylene Brown’s Kungkas Can Cook Café and Catering Service. The yummy treats are infused with native seeds and fruit, all wild-harvested by Aboriginal women in Central Australia. The income they receive from their harvesting supports their families, creating economic participation and wealth creation.
“Young Aboriginal women from Hermannsburg community, where I grew up, also attend workshops here to learn seed preparation for jewellery making,” Kathy explains. “The skills they learn will enable them to make and sell jewellery to art centres and galleries in their community.
“I have come a long way from painting at the kitchen table. My family have quietly watched my progression over the past few years, and I don’t think they are ever surprised at what I may decide to do next!”
Kathy’s studio is open from Tuesday to Thursday 9am to 2pm, and Saturday 10am to 2pm. You can find out more about her work at kathleenbuzzacott.com.au
For more on Indigenous art and culture, check out the Laura Dance Festival.