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The man behind the mural: Zachary Bennett-Brook


The man behind the mural: Zachary Bennett-Brook

Zachary Bennet-Brook, aka Saltwater Dreamtime, is an award-winning Indigenous artist, born and raised in Wollongong Australia. In celebration of NAIDOC Week 2018, we spoke to Zac about his artistic inspiration, cultural past and career goals. Zac will join us at Westfield Miranda to kick off NAIDOC Week celebrations with a live hoarding artwork on Sunday 8 July.

So Zac, tell us a bit about you. How did Saltwater Dreamtime become a reality?

I’m a proud Indigenous man born and raised in Wollongong (Dharawal country) with my great grand father being of Torres Strait Islander heritage. For me, Saltwater Dreamtime didn’t really become a reality until I finished my University studies 5 years ago. I graduated with a degree in PDHPE Teaching, but decided I wanted to chase my art dreams since I had something to fall back into if art didn’t work out. From then, I decided to put in my all and make my art dreams a reality.

Your work is creative, innovative and passionate. How does Indigenous culture influence your art?

For me, I gain a lot of inspiration from a number of different things which help to impact me and the artworks I create. I pull from my Indigenous heritage though the way in which I paint and my works have significant personal meaning as I share stories and convey messages. As a saltwater man, I gain inspiration from connecting to country, and the beach/ocean is somewhere that I feel the closest connection. I use this in a number of my works and allow it to influence the smooth flowing designs and colour choice I paint in.

This year’s NAIDOC theme is Because of her, we can. How does this message resonate with you and your art?

Growing up in a single parent family, my Mum has always encouraged my sister and I to be proud of our Indigenous culture, to work hard and chase our dreams and goals. Because of my Mum, I have been able to use the key lessons and values of hard work and not giving up which were taught to us a kids and put this into how I decided to tackle my art dreams and chase the idea of painting full time. The majority of my works have a very strong link to family through the significance placed on the number "3" for example, representing my immediate family which is evident throughout the circular designs and the number of colours I choose to paint and work with.

Featured below: Zac with his Mum and sister.

The sea has been a main source of inspiration in your work. Can you explain why this is?

As a saltwater man, I have always been surrounded by the ocean growing up in Wollongong. Spending time out in the water surfing, swimming and playing around is something I have always done. To me, the beach is somewhere that I can connect to country, reflect and take everything in. As a surfer, I often find myself taking note of how waves break and the way white wash rolls into the sand and let these little things influence different designs I paint. I often paint in a range of blue tones as well, which I always find really soothing and once again links back to the beach.

You have collaborated with some well-known brands including Redbull and Harley Davidson. Who would you most like to work and collaborate with in the future?

I always love collaborating, to me it’s the ultimate way for two people, brands etc to align and create something really unique showcasing and highlighting both peoples strong points. I have a number of different artist, brands and companies that I wish to work along side in the future but the main one is Qantas. Every few years Qantas releases an Indigenous designed plane and I would love the opportunity as a young contemporary Indigenous artist to share my work with them and create something amazing. Fingers are crossed and if I keep working hard, one day this dream collaboration/partnership might work out.

What can we expect to see from Zachary Bennett-Brook over the coming months? Are you working on anything exciting?

I have a number of new large-scale murals I’ll be working on over the next few months which is really exciting. New surfboard designs are always happening, so I am sure I will be creating many new boards to be displayed and I have a few new exciting collaborations I am working on and looking forward to sharing with everyone when the time is right.

Join Zac on Sunday 8 July on level 1 near Telstra from 10am, as he creates a beautiful, one of a kind Indigenous work of art before your very eyes at Westfield Miranda. Find out more about Zac and Saltwater Dreamtime here.

Be sure to check out the rest of our NAIDOC Week events schedule.

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