Dreamtime Kullilla Art owner Michael Connolly believes Indigenous businesspeople should be applauded for their strength and courage, and for empowering themselves, their families and communities.
His comments come as we celebrate Indigenous Business Month in October.
“Indigenous businesses are not just about Aboriginal culture but are about Aboriginal people owning and managing their own business in all aspects of Industry, empowering themselves and their families and communities,” Michael says.
He speaks from experience, running a successful Indigenous art business, called Dreamtime Kullilla Art at Clontarf for more than two decades.
“I have been in business now for 24 years and will be celebrating 25 years in 2021 - through blood, sweat, tears, guts and determination,” Michael explains.
He believes it’s more important than ever to not only celebrate Indigenous businesses, but support them.
“As you know, with an Aboriginal art and craft business, we have been fighting constant exploitation and imitation of Aboriginal Art and Fake Art - so you are competing with this rubbish all the time,” he explains.
“We are about authenticity and cultural integrity and supporting businesses like us, supports the Aboriginal artists - their art and culture directly.”
“It has been a tough year but as a business, you need to be flexible and adaptive to circumstances and fortunately our online presence has helped immensely,” he explains.
“It is forcing people to look in their own backyards and start to experience the wonders we have right here and appreciate what we have.
“We have had people come to the shop for the first time saying they never knew a business like ours was here and sadly we have been here for 24 years, so hopefully many more small businesses are being discovered and supported.”
Demand for genuine Aboriginal art remains strong, so strong Michael and his wife Jo opened a new shop and gallery in the middle of the pandemic.
The shop is not far from his previous one but has more gallery and retail space to showcase the art and products he creates and sources from communities across Australia.
Mr Connolly said they have had an online shop for about 10 years, and were able to keep trading during the shutdown.
“We had a lot of specials we put on at the time and because we moved, we had a lot of stuff that we could turn over. We advertised and marketed it, and people just bought,” he said.
The internet has provided a lifeline to Aboriginal communities, with online sales booming in the wake of galleries and shops closing.
“Aboriginal people have been trading for thousands and thousands of years - we are not new to this. We have evolved and still our culture has thrived for more than 100,000 BC (before Cook),” he says.
“We are the oldest living people on Earth, and we are still here. We are still strong and we have so much to offer – LOOK, LISTEN, LEARN.”
To find out more about Dreamtime Kullilla Art, visit the website
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