This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Artist Reko Rennie + Mila

Family

In the middle of Melbourne Art Week we’re thrilled to be featuring contemporary artist Reko Rennie again. This time, though, we’re not talking about his daily routine, or about that epic large-scale artwork that’s now embedded in the foundations of the Lyon Housemuseum Galleries. Nope, today we’re delving a little deeper, to hear about the apple of Reko’s eye, his 14-year-old daughter Mila.

We caught up with the artist ahead of his next show at the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, to talk art, family, and identity.

3rd August, 2018

Artist Reko Rennie with his daughter Mila. Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co. for  The Design Files.

Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co. for  The Design Files.

Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co. for  The Design Files.

Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co. for  The Design Files.

Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co. for  The Design Files.

Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co. for  The Design Files.

Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co. for  The Design Files.

Photo – Sarah Collins of Work + Co. for  The Design Files.

Emma Eldridge
Friday 3rd August 2018

‘Being a father is an extraordinary responsibility and privilege; my experiences as a young child enabled me to give unconditional love and support’ – Reko Rennie.

Interdisciplinary artist Reko Rennie’s most recent work, Remember Me, was unveiled on National Sorry Day a few weeks back. Its location, in Fitzroy’s Atherton Reserve, is significant – the suburb has formed the urban heart of Aboriginal Victoria for almost a century, and this park was a place where members of the Stolen Generations could reconnect with family. Representing men and matriarchy, kin and culture, Reko’s sculpture is a tribute to those forcibly removed, including his grandmother who was taken from her home, aged eight.

We caught up with the artist in amongst moving studios and preparing for his next show at the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair to talk art, family, and identity.

You grew up in Footscray with your parents and sister as well as your paternal grandmother, who came from the Kamilaroi people of northern New South Wales. Can you tell me a bit about what it was like to have such a close and constant relationship with Julia, and how she taught you about her culture?

I feel very fortunate to have had that special time with my grandmother, Julia. Nan – as she was known to me – instilled the importance of culture, love and respect. She taught me to be self-sufficient (I learnt how to cook at a very young age), tough but fair, and respectful of all sorts of different people.

My sense of identity and its importance came about through learning of the devastating trauma she and many other Aboriginal children and families experienced as a result of the government’s removal of children. When a member of your family is dispossessed from their homeland and denied their culture, language and identity, you must ensure this is never forgotten.

After your parents separated, you chose to live with your mother and sister – you’ve said it isn’t a child’s job to look after their parent, but that’s what you felt you had to do. How do you think this experience informed who you are – and your own approach to parenting Mila?

Being a father is an extraordinary responsibility and privilege; my experiences as a young child enabled me to give unconditional love and support. Eva and I are here to guide Mila as best we can, and I know that Mila is more compassionate, strong and wise than I was at her age.

I think the most important aspect of our approach to parenting is to be present, emotional and physically; to share a sense of humour; and ensure Mila feels loved, no matter what.

You enjoy being busy and ‘prefer to be flat out,’ working in the studio up to 16 hours a day. How do you balance your practice with family life, in particular parenting a teenager – you’ve said that Mila is outgoing and adventurous, and you’ll always be a protective Dad!

It’s interesting to look back at the last interview I did with The Design Files as those crazy hours were my normal for a long time. But that sort of regime isn’t sustainable for anyone who wants to lead a healthy and balanced life. I recently had to re-evaluate my schedule and the amount of time I was putting into my practice – I now try to be a bit more measured, take time out in the evenings and sit down with the family. I feel I’m at a better place with my work as a consequence.

As parents, we all have different ways of doing things, and fatherhood for me is one long learning phase. Trying to balance family, work and commitments is a tough gig for any self-employed person, but it’s working now and switching off from email and devices in the evenings certainly helps.

Last year, you completed your most ambitious project to date, Visible Invisible on the site of the soon-to-be-completed Lyon Housemuseum Galleries. The Olympic swimming pool-sized work combines elements of graffiti with Kamilaroi iconography, and like all your work, it is deeply connected to and informed by your Aboriginal identity. How have you instilled this sense of connection and pride in Mila?

Every project I complete, in particular, the OA-RR video work I exhibited at the Venice Biennale last year and the Remember Me Stolen Generations commission, is an extension of my culture and identity.

Since she was a baby, Mila has been connected to the Victorian and Kamilaroi community. She acknowledges her identity independently and that has come from her being proud of her heritage and seeing the work I do and hearing about our history before and after colonisation.

Can you give us a glimpse into how your days start and end with Eva and Mila?

Lately, I’ve tried to fit my work activities into normal daytime hours so I can be there for the after-school activities – I make sure I’m home to get Mila to her soccer practice and drama classes. In the evenings, we walk our two dogs, go to the park for a kick of the footy, then cook dinner together.

Moving across time, what kind of adult might you like Mila to grow into? How would you like her to remember you to her own family?

Mila is a very independent young teenager who I know will develop into a strong, free-thinking woman. She’ll be able to pursue whatever she wants to in life, and already has such varied interests – marine biology, performing and singing. I look forward to seeing where she takes them!

I would like her to remember me as a loving and supportive dad who always did his best to make her laugh and keep her safe.

 

Family favourites

Activity or outing

Watching our dogs Tara and Paddy at the park.

Dinner destination

Café Di Stasio.

Book, film, or show

We have a family tradition of watching 80s movies like The Goonies.

Place to travel

We head to Wye River when we can and love the Northern Territory. We spent a couple of weeks in Italy earlier this year.

View Comments

Similar Stories

Family

Yumi Stynes + Family

The straight-shooting media personality and author on keeping all the balls in the air, with four kids and endless side projects!
Emma Eldridge

Extraordinary Routines

Extraordinary Routines · Reko Rennie

The industrious Melbourne artist on rewarding family dinners, enjoying your commute, and chilling out to thrillers.
Madeleine Dore

Family

The Schwartz/Elenberg Family

Architect Zahava Elenberg and her mother, gallerist Anna Schwartz, talk family.
Emma Eldridge

This Week

Interiors

A Colour-Drenched, 'Grandmillennial' Home In North Sydney

Bold colour, and both English and Moroccan influences come together in this North Sydney home by Lisa Burdus.

Homes

A Designer’s 1970s Bells Beach Dream Home!

The incredible eclectic home of interior designer Léo Terrando and Jessica Watts, on Victoria's surf coast.

Gardens

A WOW-Factor 'Secret Garden' In Blairgowrie

Ian Barker Gardens creates a private outdoor sanctuary on the Mornington Peninsula.

Studio Visit

Two Best Friends' Lockdown Hobby Turned Cult Candle Business

Creative entrepreneurs Ruby Kannava and Emma Cutri pooled their respective small business knowledge to found Blazed Wax - a colourful, cult-...

News

The TDF ‘ALL THE THINGS’ 500k Giveaway!

Help us celebrate half a million (!) Insta followers with epic prize packs for three lucky readers! 

TDF Design Awards

The Sensational Interior Design Finalists In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards 2021!

The 12 incredible residential projects in the running to win the Interior Design award at the TDF + Laminex Design Awards 2021, presented by...

News

Shop These Plush Woollen Rugs And Get A Special TDF Discount!

Carpet Court’s customisable rug range is made with 100% New Zealand wool and can be cut to suit the size, shape and colour of your interio...
Sponsored

On The Market

A Light + Bright Beachside Home Hits The Market

This property in Sunrise Beach, Noosa is a full time home that feels like a holiday home - and it’s ready for new inhabitants!

Interiors

A Glam ’60s-Inspired Makeover For A Drab Suburban Home

Kaiko Design transform a forgettable suburban space into a ritzy family residence, with big personality!

Interiors

A Joyful Home, Full Of Whimsy + Glamour

Scalloped edges and vibrant colours have elevated this Sydney terrace by Arent&Pyke.
Amelia Barnes
  4 hours ago

News

Get Luxe Designer Furniture For Up To 15% Off!

Designer furniture retailer DOMO is discounting in-stock and custom items from HC28 + HC28 Cosmopolitan.
Sponsored

Architecture

A Modernist-Inspired Seaside Home

This adaptable, Victorian seaside home designed by Nest Architects and Placement blurs the line between modernism and contemporary design. ...

Architecture

Everything You Need To Know About Working With An Architect

Four of Australia's best architects answer your frequently asked questions, from what an architect does, to how much they cost!
51:47

Podcast

Country Road’s Managing Director On The Stickiness Of Sustainable Fashion, On TDF Talks

In this podcast conversation, Elle Roseby talks leading one of the country’s most iconic brands through a new age in the fashion industry....

Interiors

Get The Look: Dark + Moody Bathrooms And Kitchens

All the product and styling advice you need to achieve the dark, moody bathrooms and kitchen interiors trend, brought to you Oliveri.

Similar Stories

Family

Yumi Stynes + Family

The straight-shooting media personality and author talks raising four kids, and juggling endless side projects!
Emma Eldridge

Extraordinary Routines

Extraordinary Routines · Reko Rennie

The industrious Melbourne artist on rewarding family dinners, enjoying your commute, and chilling out to thrillers.
Madeleine Dore

Family

The Schwartz/Elenberg Family

Architect Zahava Elenberg and her mother, gallerist Anna Schwartz, talk family.
Emma Eldridge

The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.