Celebrating our Indigenous community at Art Mania Studios


FEATURING Charmaine Lehman, Gini Mac, Mungi Lock, and Sandy Lee. 

To celebrate NAIDOC Week 2023, we spent the last few weeks encouraging the Indigenous artists within our community to speak up and share their stories with us.  

Our staff member Jade had the great privilege of meeting our artists one on one to chat, hearing and documenting stories of pride, respect, resentment, longing, belonging and passion. With their permission Shannon shared their words alongside photos and video on our social media accounts.

Art Mania Studios recognize the depth of knowledge and understanding held by the Indigenous artists in our community. We hope that introducing them in this way might be the beginning of many important future conversations in our studio and beyond.  

Please see our wonderful line up of highlighted Indigenous Artists for 2023:

Charmaine Lehman, Yuin-Monaro people Wallaga Lake South Coast NSW  

Charmaine is a dedicated artist at AMS, a friend to many, and an inspiration to us all. 

Although raised in Aboriginal communities, confirmation of her own Aboriginal lineage wasn’t established until well into her adult life. It was then that Charmaine’s memories of her mother regularly waking from nightmares distressed that her children were being taken finally made sense to her. Charmaine speaks with sadness about not knowing her history sooner, feeling robbed of what she missed. But despite not being told earlier, she always felt a deep connection to the land.

Charmaine tells her story of seeing mental health as being connected to land and sky. “Balance can only happen with your feet planted on the land, with your mind reaching up and connecting to the sky.” She describes the way that one without the other often explains her experiences with anxiety and depression.  

In recent years Charmaine has had the opportunity to become part of local Indigenous groups. Her face lights up as she describes what that means to her. With her people, despite all the years lost Charmaine says she feels home, connection, belonging, as though they were always the missing piece.  

Gini Mac, Worimi Woman, Gathang language group, Saltwater people, Gloucester NSW 

Gini Mac is a proud Aboriginal Worimi woman who was raised in the bush where her father worked as a cedar cutter. In 2012 Gini’s life changed drastically when she was diagnosed with a rare and incurable brain condition leaving her unable to continue her career.  

What was at the time a very difficult pathway change for Gini, was for us a blessing as it led her to Art Mania Studio. Gini is now a much loved and admired student and she and her family are valuable members of the AMS community.  

Gini is a celebrated exhibiting artist whose glass coolamons have made their way into galleries across Australia. We recommend that you check out her work currently on display at Newcastle Museum as part of FIRST: an exhibition celebrating the talent and creativity of local First Nations Artists.  

When asked what this year’s theme ‘For Our Elders’ means to her Gini speaks very passionately. Gini says it feels great to acknowledge the work, oral history, connection and care for the country that her elders hold, and for others to acknowledge how important her elders are to Australian history.  

Gini’s passion is delivered with a sense of urgency as she talks about the importance of educating ourselves around the upcoming referendum and the status of the closing the gaps targets.   

Mungi Lock, (Peter Rose) 

Although known by many in the studio as Peter, today he prefers to go by his birthname Mungi. Mungi is a joyful art maker whose been attending Art Mania Studio for over two years working with support from Gino Palmieri in painting and resin.  

Mungi’s great sense of humour and cheeky demeanor means that he’s often having a joke with staff at the studio. It’s not until you ask him to explain his artwork that you realise there’s a serious side to Mungi and much that he has had to overcome. 

He points to a painting he made containing symbols of his story beginning at a small painted eye, brown like his. He explains that this is his Mother’s sad eye from when he was taken from her as a baby.  

Mungi’s story isn’t unique but when he tells it, it hits like the first time it’s been told. Mungi describes his journey away from his family, his difficulties, challenging mental health, and his journey many years later back to family. And despite his unimaginable trauma he shares it all in such a warm and open way.  

When asked about the theme ‘For Our Elders’ Mungi reminds us that this theme is for him too, he is an elder. And it is a wonderful reminder that although technically speaking Mungi comes to us at Art Mania Studio to be taught, he like many of our participants is teaching us all the time.  

Sandy Lee  

Some may know Sandy Lee as a Hunter based exhibiting artist. She is a talented painter with deep connections to heritage, country, culture, and spirituality, whose work is being exhibited internationally. Alongside her painting practice Sandy also works as a dedicated Support Worker at Art Mania Studio, assisting participants towards achieving their own art making goals.  

Sandy’s Nan was also a painter. She was an Indigenous woman with a hidden culture. Thus, her Aboriginal lineage was hidden from her subsequent generations, silencing her ability to pass down culture. Despite this Sandy’s Nan’s message was passed on.

When it came to painting, she would tell Sandy from a young age that ‘she should find the work within’. True to this advice, over time Sandy developed a special painting practice that was entirely self-taught. It wasn’t until later that she realized how her work intuitively responded to spirit and nature like that of her Indigenous ancestors.  

We are blessed with so many wonderful artists in our community at Art Mania Studios, and it is a privilege to be able to hold space for them in our studio, and give them the opportunity to grow as artists and tell their stories.

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