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Community in the picture at Wild Honey

WILD Honey Aboriginal Gallery in Guildford is not your average art gallery. Currently in the throes of renovation, it seems more like an artist’s studio or home than a gallery.

But step into the main gallery room, which houses the canvases and various pieces of Aboriginal art, and you’ll be transported to another world. A world filled with stories about times gone by.

You’ll find gallery owner and operator, renowned Aboriginal artist Robyn Mandafferi, hard at work painting, sipping on a cappuccino or playing with her grandchildren.

One look at Ms Mandafferi’s works and it becomes clear why her canvases can be found hanging next to Van Gogh’s in private art collections in Europe, why strangers ring her from half-way around the world to commission paintings, and why she is still happy to sit down with you and tell you about her life.

Born on a cattle station between Alice Springs and Darwin, Ms Mandafferi’s life has been a wonderful, though at times difficult, journey

“I thought I’d never get through it. And I think other people thought I’d never get through it. I just said to myself, come on girl,” she said

“Life hasn’t always been easy and I never wanted to allow my disad-vantages in life to set me back.

“The more traumas I have in my life, the more I stuff-up emotionally, the better I am.

“The pieces created with strong emotion are the ones that people like the most. They say: ‘It speaks to me’.”

While her art speaks to buyers, everything else in life speaks to Ms Mandafferi.

“Anything without a story is void of emotion. I’m driven by passion. Every-thing is inspiring. The moon, the stars, flowers, even a rock,” she said.

“I think my kids and grandkids think I’m crazy sometimes when I tell them the stories and take them outside to find a rock to explain it.

“It’s like being at one with nature.

It’s like being in another world.”

That passion certainly translates well onto canvas, with each piece a story unto itself.

In February this year Ms Mandafferi received a phone call from German fine arts dealer Manfred Schroeder. She had no idea who he was, but he certainly knew all about her.

“He phoned from Germany on a Thursday and said: ‘I’ve heard all about you. I’ll be there at 1pm on Saturday’,” she said.

Mr Schroeder spent several weeks in Perth with her and commissioned six paintings. He was so impressed that he is flying Ms Mandafferi to Germany next year for two months to paint (and perhaps exhibit).

“I’ve been really blessed and for-tunate with everything that has hap-pened to me,” Ms Mandafferi said.

“I started out with five paintings. Other artists came to me and gave me pieces on consignment. I’ve had the most amazing collections of the most amazing things.

“My customers have become my friends and they have supported me.”

Ms Mandafferi also sells works by other Aboriginal artists and collects pieces for other collectors.

“This is real bush art, not tourist stuff,” she said. “Things that are done in the community.”

With such a high calibre of product Ms Mandafferi could easily find herself in the very wealthy section of the global art community, but it just doesn’t seem to hold any interest for her.

“I don’t open on Saturdays because that is the day I spend with my family,” she said.

“All the money in the world can’t buy you the friendship and closeness I have.”

It’s obvious that the time spent with her children, grandchildren and friends is the highest priority on her life’s list.

“I teach my kids and my grandkids all the stories. I look after my grandkids at the gallery while their mum is at work. I paint with them and teach them,” she said.

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