12 April, 2021
Local Indigenous painter trail-blazes new path
A LOCAL Indigenous painter and community member sat down with the Highlands Leader this week to tell us why she loves our region.
Camille Swallow has lived in Emerald for over a decade, raising her family here through her heartaches and successes.
Ms Swallow has been coming to the Central Highlands with her family since she was a baby and has always had loved the region.
Ms Swallow said her father used to bring her and her siblings to the Gemfields when they were children.
“I was born in Bundaberg and we would have to leave at 1am and not get to the Gemfields until 6pm,” she said.
“My Dad had a ute and we used to be piled up on camping gear in the back – I was only a baby when we started going on the trips.
“I was born in 1967 and now I’m 54 years old.”
Ms Swallow said she has family around the Central Highlands and Capricornia regions.
“I’ve got two daughters and four grandchildren here in Emerald but have another daughter and three more grandchildren in Rockhampton and we’re all close,” she said.
Ms Swallow said she has always loved the Emerald area.
“I moved here when my daughter was in grade seven (she’s 26 now), which was 14 years ago,” she said.
“I love the west and the peacefulness of it – the city is not for me.
“I’m always looking for sapphires in the Gemfields – it’s the lifestyle I’ve always wanted.”
Ms Swallow said her life has had its “ups and downs”.
“It’s been a traumatic time, which is hard to talk about,” she said.
“I had a lot of trauma in my childhood and a bad break up of my marriage, but I still consider Emerald home.
“I went away to Tasmania for six months and back to Bundaberg for 18 months and moved back to Emerald last year.
“I became a member of the Indigenous Corporation on the Board of Directors at this time.”
Ms Swallow said that, despite all this, painting is what gets her through it all.
“Painting is what I do,” she said.
“I have osteoarthritis so I’m on a pension and painting is my outlet for everything.
“I’ve been painting for a little over a year and it means the world to me because it’s the first time I’ve been recognised for something – I feel alive.”
Ms Swallow said she has Nikki Pickering from the Central Highlands Development Corporation to thank for her start.
“She gave me life,” she said.
“I live in the Indigenous Complex and one of the young girls came and asked me to pain the Torres Strait Islands flag.
“I don’t know much about my culture so when she asked me, it taught me about that culture.
“I entered it into a t-shirt competition along with a few other paintings.
“Nikki came and saw my painting and asked me if I wanted to have my own exhibition.
“It was pretty amazing.”
Ms Swallow was recently commended for her works, winning the Springsure Art Awards this year
Ms Swallow said her favourite thing about living in the Central Highlands was going out-bush, which is a big part of her.
“The inspiration from my paintings comes from within me – they’re a reflection of myself,” she said.
“I talk through my art and what I paint now is regarding my life story.
“I want to be different.
“I’m more than an artist – I’m a modern multicultural stylist.”