In celebration of Australia's rich and important history and Alpha Women everywhere, we proudly partnered with KONSTANTINA to celebrate the 2022 holiday period.  

KONSTANTINA is an award-winning contemporary Aboriginal painter, activist, mother and storyteller, passionate about restoring Aboriginal art and culture to its rightful place and prominence. A proud Koori woman of the Eora Nation, KONSTANTINA’S work re-imagines the traditions of her peoples’ dot paintings and provides a modern narrative to help Australians to better understand First Nationals People as an immensely important part of Australian culture.  

Beyond painting, KONSTANTINA is a dynamic and inspiring advocate for her community, using her corporate experience and creative nous to create a lasting and positive legacy in her Aboriginal community through positions on Aboriginal art collectives, and collaborations with universities working to restore and protect Aboriginal art and culture. 

Here, KONSTANTINA discusses her storied and diverse career, how her art allows her to connect with her culture and the transcending power of storytelling. 


We understand you have not always practiced as an artist, but in fact came to be a full-time painter some time into your career. Tell us a little bit about what you did before painting? 

I’m very lucky to have had two brilliant careers. My first was in media and advertising and saw me occupy roles in radio and TV which gave me the opportunity to work with amazing talented people and make beautiful productions that I’m genuinely very proud of.   


How did you come to connect with your craft? 

I’ve always been someone who loved to make things. In fact, one of my earliest artistic memories is making gift cards all weekend and selling them to my family and our friends at a stall in front of my house. I was only about 6 at the time. 

Making things and telling stories has always been with me. It’s intuitive for me; a feeling. It’s quite visceral. When I had my first beautiful son Zane, the gut instinct to paint what I was feeling was overwhelming. Having a child was the best experience of my life, I was (and still am) consumed with utter adoration and love for this tiny human that I created. I couldn’t believe it (I still can’t), and I now have 3 little boys! But it was Zane who made me a mother, and as a mother I wanted his connection to our Culture to be more engaged than mine was. As a mum I wanted better for him than for me, and painting connected me to my identity as an Aboriginal woman. The more I painted, the more strength I found, and the stronger I became the more I painted. 

At the time I started to connect with my painting I had also broken my back, so I was in quite a lot of pain for a very long time, and painting was the only thing I could do to take my mind off it. Like meditation, painting is a practice of deep listening to myself, and at the same time it allows you to work out the world’s problems. It’s a lovely added benefit that I usually have a nice piece of art to show for the hours too! 


How has painting allowed you to connect with your Aboriginal heritage and community? 

Whether a painter or not, connecting with your community is such an essential ingredient for any Koori. Your mob is more than family or kin. It’s a living, breathing part of our culture.  

As a painter, I’m afforded the opportunity to meet and work with more mob from all over Australia. It’s so beautiful to get a different perspective on the richness and differences in our ways. I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to connect with people and share stories, knowledge and language. It’s this sharing within community that keeps our stories alive. 

Alpha-H Skincare image
Alpha-H Skincare image

Where do you draw most of your inspiration from when approaching a new work? 

A lot of my work draws inspiration from the natural world, we call it Ngura or Country. That encompasses the physical, natural world, but also the spirit of that world. 

I’m also a ferocious reader and learner. I read 3-4 books a week. I have an insatiable appetite to understand things, and having big gaps in Gadigal cultural information drives me crazy. As a mob we were almost entirely wiped out with the coming of the colony on our homelands in Sydney, and we still feel that pain and loss every day. Academically reading and consuming as much knowledge about that time helps to fuel my passion for telling our story. 


We understand you’ve been working closely with Sydney University to revitalise the Gadigal language. Tell us a bit about what this experience has been like? 

Professor Jaky Troy is an amazing Ngarigu woman, academic and Director of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Research at Sydney University who published the very first Sydney Language dictionary in the early 90s. I reached out to her a few years ago when I was seeking a deeper understanding of the where and how this resource came about and if, based on this list of words, it would be possible to speak fluently in my Gadigal Language. She said yes, and the rest is history. I’ve been using her resources and her linguistic guidance ever since to teach myself and my children our original language, and it’s something I will forever be in Jaky’s debt for. 


What does your traditional language mean to you? 

Everything! Language is power. If you can’t communicate with someone, you’re unable to survive in your current form as a human, and you need to change. This is what happened to my people. The prohibition of speaking native languages changed us forever, it took our ability to communicate from us, and took our power away. 

Learning and speaking my original language feels powerful, and grounds my children in their custodianship of Country. I feel more pride when I hear my kids speak in lingo than anything else in my life. 


As a mother, how has motherhood influenced your work (if at all)? 

Being a mum is the best job I’ve ever had with the worst pay! Haha! I literally can’t remember what my life was like without my kids. They fill up my life with noise, laughter and love, and are a chaotic whirlwind of stinky boys who are so proud to be Aboriginal. We speak in lingo, crush ochre for my paintings, and make clap sticks and Coolamons together, all things that help us keep our Gadigal stories and Culture alive. It’s for them and them alone that I paint. It’s to keep us connected and grounded and engaged in our Culture. 

So, yeah, they’re a pretty big deal!