Jaqueline Burgess for jaquelineburgessart.com

River bennett ( Photographer River Bennett)

I remember someone once saying that "Africa chooses you. It's like a magnet. Once you visit it, it won't ever leave you. The blood of its people, the culture, the landscape runs in your veins forever. They take hold of you whether you want them to or not."

When I came across Archibald entrant and mother of two, Jaqueline Burgess and her work I couldn't help but hear those words in my mind again. I could see Africa in her work.  I could see it in her use of vibrant colour and detailed patterns. It too, was her magnet of Africa's people and culture and landscape. I could see how she wanted others to know of the sacred land from which she came. 

Growing up in South Africa was .... a bit on the wild side. It was a normal occurrence to walk into our kitchen in the morning and see a monkey sitting on the kitchen bench chomping away at the fruit in our fruit bowl. Life was spent in the garden picking fruit from the trees, and swimming at the beach or in the pool all summer long.  Kids weren’t sent to Day Care or Preschool as we had maids which were like nannies or second mothers. They cared for us and spoke to us in Zulu (the native tongue). I remember going for walks with our maid down the road to what we called the 'Tea Room’ to buy lollies, with my baby sister huddled and tied up in a bundle on my maid's back. Off we went, chatting to the local African people on the way.

South Africa taught me..... to be accepting of different cultures and to have an appreciation of nature. The people of South Africa have a very strong work ethic, and being  surrounded by a rainbow nation of creative and innovative thinkers, meant thinking outside the box became second nature. There is something very special about Africa - once the land and its people are in your heart, it remains there forever and I will always feel a part of me is still in Africa. I think it is this strong emotional pull that has influenced my art a great deal. 

My mother is... the physical definition of 'Nurture'. If they could clone my mum and send millions of her out to all the lonely, sad and hurt children around the world- this planet would be a better place. Never have I met another woman to be as selfless and loving as my Mamma.  My mother was a passionate seamstress and she would knock out killer outfits for my sister and I based on our simple drawings. She was truly amazing and would have done well in the fashion industry. She taught me to always consider other peoples feelings, to look for the good in everyone, to be passionate and to work hard at everything you believe in. It was through her constant acts of kindness and charity to others that I am reminded each and every day to try and encourage that heart of generosity in my own two girls.

The person who has influenced my art the most.....There is no one individual person or thing that has influenced my art, but rather a culmination of the wonderful people and places that have touched my life. There is a bit of all these aspects evident in my paintings mostly through the vibrant colours and huge amount of detail. My style is an ever-evolving artwork in itself, it’s improving over time and sometimes it has a mind and life of its own that surprises me. 

I came to Australia when.... I was a new mother with a handsome Australian husband on my arm. It was 2010 and I was incredibly young. I had no vision of pursuing my art at the time but rather focused on getting through the feeds and sleepless nights. Oh, how my children have taught me to dream and create again. 

I know I'm home when... I hear my children laughing behind me whilst I am wrist-deep in the dirt planting new seedlings, feeling the cool ocean against my skin and the warm sun on my back.

The moment I became a mother I... thought ‘why did no one warn me it would be this painful?’ ha! In all seriousness, becoming a mother showed me the strength I had within me, not only the physical demands, but the incredible amount of love and patience I never knew I had. I would recommend it to anyone as being the most thrilling adventure of all time. 

I want my girls to know.... that they can achieve anything, that they need to believe in and love themselves, and that nothing ‘real’ comes without passion, endurance and kindness. I want them to be the best people they can be and to do what makes them happy. 

If I wasn't an artist I would be... an archeologist. 

I'm obsessed with... my daughter's chubby hands - they are so cute it drives me crazy. I kiss them all day! Oh, and I love the colour turquoise, I’m drawn to it like a moth to a flame. 

Submitting an Archibald entry this year was... possibly the most challenging Piece of Art I have attempted in my life, but also one of the proudest moments.  I’m known to paint the bold portrait of many an animal, but it's a whole other dimension of creativity when painting a real human being whom I admire so very much. Painting Sharn McNeil was an emotional journey, not only because of her incredible story, but also because I had to dig deep within me to find the confidence to embark on such a challenge. 

My encouragement to other WolfpackMrs mothers would be to.... remember that Family are the Rock in one's life,  and that you can draw strength and inspiration from the simple moments spent together. It's important to maintain a generous spirit. Too often we can get drawn into this world of consumerism, and neglect the natural beauty around us that costs nothing . Anyone who has a talent or an opportunity to better their own lives has a huge responsibility to give back - this I believe balances the scales of life and keeps us grounded and humble. Working hard on my career whilst being a mother means I have to be disciplined in all areas of my life, and it's important to make time for your loved ones even when you are drowning in work. Honour your talent whatever it may be, work hard at it and believe in it. A quote I have carried around with me for years, not sure who wrote it: 

Flow in your purpose and use your gifts, talents and abilities. They will multiply and you will reap the benefits.


For more on Jaqueline Burgess head to:

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