Every year, Australian Writers’ Week brings authors from the Land Down Under to China for a series of talks, readings, and workshops. Among this year’s guests is Bronwyn Bancroft, writer, artist and activist. Beijingkids talked to her about her life and work; read our interview with YA author John Marsden here.
Bronwyn Bancroft grew up in rural New South Wales, the daughter of an indigenous father and a mother of Scottish-Polish heritage. She studied at the Canberra School of Art and Sydney University, and has worked as an artist, fashion designer and writer.
Much of her work is inspired by her indigenous heritage, and her family home in Lionsville.
“My home at Lionsville is off the grid,” she said in a 2015 speech. “I have no technology, no television and my nearest neighbor is 15 minutes by car. You live in the heart of the landscape with a river running by the house.
“This place informs all of my work and has done for three decades. I go home on average six or seven times a year and my cousins caretake when I am not there.
“I live in two worlds. The bush and the city and this allows me a wonderful touchstone for my life… This land, my family and my people are my inspiration.”
In the same speech she said, “I know we are meant to be able to articulate and share our creative genesis and theories with as many people as possible, but I prefer to engage with my work instead of writing or talking about it. The act of creating for me is a chance to connect with memories and push those creative boundaries to the ultimate extremes.”
Despite her reluctance to talk about her art we were lucky enough to secure an exclusive interview with her.
You have a very distinctive visual style. How much does it owe to formal training, and how much to traditional techniques?
My style has developed over many years. I wanted to create from a very young age and loved art all through school. I went to art school in 1976 and I was 18. I have studied all my life and have three degrees and I am completing my PhD. Art is all about practice and I paint everyday. I love creating new artwork and am delighted everyday by art.
Do you prefer illustrating your own stories, or working with other people?
I love illustrating and the more books I write and illustrate the more competent I become. I love working with other writers and am overjoyed to bring their words to life with imagery.
Your work celebrates your dual heritage. Do you think multiculturalism is under threat? Can children’s books help?
I celebrate the people who made me who I am. I love the knowledge that my Aboriginal family possess and I love the tenacity of my Polish/Scottish Mum. We should all be much more tolerant of our differences. We are all human. Intolerance of other cultures creates division and this threatens our existence as humans. I think children’s books and stories can initialize a young person’s mind to be open to new ideas.
You write about the importance of transmission, of stories and culture. Which writers and illustrators inspired you?
I am in awe of all people who spend their life creating for the joy of other people.
Bronwyn Bancroft: My Life, My Country, May 14,
Adults. English & Chinese. 7-8pm. Free. BHG Changying Shopping Centre, 17 Chaoyang North Rd, Chaoyang District. 北京华联（常营购物中心）, 朝阳区朝阳北路17号
Photos: By Hamiltonstone – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9482666, https://www.pinterest.com/snorthstarr/bronwyn-bancroft/