Kiya Watt has always been passionate about using her art as a medium to educate, share stories, and advocate for issues close to her heart. Her journey as an artist began as a means of healing herself, processing intergenerational trauma, and connecting with her cultural identity.
Kiya’s story is a testament to the transformative power of art and the unbreakable connection between an artist and their roots.
Kiya speaks openly and honestly about her vulnerability and the depth of her human experience as she continues to inspire others to embrace their heritage and express themselves through art.
In this interview, Kiya opens up about her creative process, the themes she explores in her work, and her aspirations for the future, offering a glimpse into the life of an artist who is not only creating beautiful pieces, but also relentlessly pursuing personal and artistic growth each day.
How did you begin your journey as a visual artist and who or what are your biggest artistic influences?
“As a young, single Aboriginal mother, I found that my trauma was taking control of my life. I had a lot of unprocessed emotions and wanted to find a healthy outlet. Painting became that outlet, where I discovered strength in embracing my vulnerability as the daughter of a Stolen Generations survivor. I felt connected and valued learning from the Elders and artists in my family.
After I started with permission, I began being messaged by people via social media and from there I felt I could not only use my art to heal, but to also help make an impact by sharing the stories connected to what I was painting. I am especially grateful for my Pop Wayne Knapp, Nan Lynette Knapp and Nan Ollie Petterson who gifted me with the knowledge of my cultural responsibility that I will always honour with all my paintings. They are among the many Elders whom I aspire to be like and help me be accountable for the art journey I am lucky to still be on.”
Can you walk me through your creative process?
“My creative process is a sacred spiritual experience. It’s where I feel truly connected to my roots. When it comes to concepts I’ve been lucky to stand firm in only accepting commissions that allow me complete control over what I create. I’ve always made sure that what I paint is what represents my people and where I’m from. I always paint the animals connected to my storylines and make the colours match. For example if I’m doing whales the background will reflect blues to represent the ocean.”
How do you overcome creative blocks or challenges?
“I’ve never until recently experienced artist block which was due to fleeing domestic violence. So I shake a little when painting but I find deep breaths and thinking of my Nan Kathy Gray grounds me back into the present moment, and I’m able to become steady and continue on. Knowing my ancestors are with me always is a huge motivator in not allowing me to give up something that’s central to who I am.”
How do you think art can impact society or bring about change?
“Art/storytelling is a core part of our culture. Continuing to show up proud as an Aboriginal woman and carry on a tradition practised for over 85,000+ years shows that we are still here. Colonisation and this system tried to erase us, assimilate us and silence us. For me painting shows my community that I am resilient, and still resisting like so many of my mob. The impact of painting is one of the many ways we can continue to remain the longest striving, surviving culture in the world. So I’ll never stop.”
In what ways do you push yourself out of your comfort zone in your art?
“I’ve done a couple of murals with no prior experience. I’d love to start applying for grants and teaching others how to also submit applications. Role modelling self-determination is really important to me. So helping to up skill others in a way that creates more employment opportunities for everyone in the community is a goal of mine and also a way to challenge myself and grow as an Artist.”
How do you see your art evolving in the future?
“I’ve been working on a few projects but I’m keeping it under wraps for now as I'm learning to just enjoy painting and what it means for me spiritually. I envision a lot of positive things for me in the future but a huge goal for me will be to one day collaborate with my children and work on a joint project with them and publish a book. I look forward to doing more community projects and less social media.”
As she looks to the future, Kiya's aspirations to engage more in community projects highlight her dedication to fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for the breadth and depth of her culture. BW Tribal is proud to be partnered with Kiya and further amplify her voice and mission.
Follow along on Kiya’s journey.