Original artist Yama Harradine draws inspiration from the manga and anime to bring scenes of Wimmera to life

Anime and manga are often used to depict fantasy worlds and bright characters. Now, a regional artist from the Victorian era has drawn inspiration from Japanese art forms to depict life in the small town of Wimmera in Dimbulla.

Wotjobaluk artist Yama Harradine was fascinated with animation growing up, and created a distinctive cartoon-inspired painting style to depict topical issues, local animals, and his own journey as a transgender man.

“I didn’t even know what anime really was, I just thought it was a cartoon, and eventually I kind of got into the world of anime without really thinking that much would come of it, but I really enjoyed the style,” the 21-year-old said.

“I didn’t really think I was going to explore and make something out of it at the time, but the more I drew, the more improvement I saw.”

Stylized drawing of a man winking at the camera with his finger to his lips
Growing up, Yama was always a big fan of anime like Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z.(Supplier: Yama Haradin)

Despite his passion, Hradin said he never enjoyed art classes at school because he found them limiting.

“I hated the art, I hated the graphics. I didn’t like that there were too many rules because for me… yeah, there are anatomy rules, there are shading rules, there are lighting rules, but I didn’t like that everything was so based on realism.”

“Art should be something you explore on your own.”

Inspiration from animals

Animals are a regular element of Harradine’s work but he takes a special interest in cats.

“I was really into cats—domestic or wild,” he said.

“I will see a cat that may look like me from an outside point of view but I can spot all the differences between them.

“They always have a unique feature, face shape or even [a] Behavior you can express in drawing.

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When Harradine looks at an animal, he doesn’t just see the general types—he’s looking for the idiosyncrasies that make each creature unique.

“You can tell what a dog is, for example, just by looking at it, although it might not be quite right in terms of anatomy, and I love that you can definitely explore more with animals than you can explore with people in my opinion,” he said.

“The dingo is broad-nosed in a softer way; it is not so huge, and the dingo is also known for the white tip at its tail… [I like] Just kind of keeping all of those things in mind.

“You can really tell almost all of the animals apart.”

In the country, around the country

As a Wotjobaluk man, Harradine uses his work to celebrate Aboriginal culture.

Working in the countryside, attending youth camps, and spending time with his family instilled in him a passion he said he had in mind growing up.

“It’s not that I wasn’t interested, I guess I really didn’t feel like I had anything to offer at the time because I was just a kid.

“Being involved in decisions that are made culturally… has made me more interested in my culture.”

Digital illustration of aboriginal elders above, with four aborigines below against a black background.
Yama Haradin wanted this piece to reflect a sense of indigenous protest across multiple generations.(Supplier: Yama Haradin)

Hradine said observance of local customs when painting is very important.

“The thing about Aboriginal art is that certain regions have different rules of what you can do, so personally here, point art shouldn’t be a very explicit manifestation of what I do when I apply traditional Aboriginal methods,” he said.

“I think this is my way of representing this district, by sticking to its rules.”

Being Indigenous and trans in a small rural town can be isolating, Harradine said.

“It’s scary in a country to have both of those things because it’s not very common and sometimes you feel like you’re the only one,” he said.

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“I like to focus more on the indigenous side of things rather than the transient side of things but I still wanted to include it because they are both very real things and co-exist, and they are found in all kinds of Aboriginal cultures.”

But while Harradine said he’s proud to be on his journey, Harradine says he wanted his gender identity to define his life or work.

“The more I transition the more peace I feel in myself, that I don’t have to worry about being trans,” he said.

“People expect me to be transgender in person but that’s who I am.”

Harradine has just opened commissions for his art, in part to help fund the final phase of his transition.

“This will always be my home.”

In early March, the new Dimbola Tower Park, built on the site of a former hotel that burned down in 2003, will open.

Harradine was invited to complete a welcome artwork for the park that includes endemic species of birds.

And I thought, ‘What better way to welcome than to offer things specific to this region that Dimbola could have?’ “

A metal sign on the fence depicts a brown circle with parrot motifs and the names of local Aboriginal groups around the outside
Yama Harradine has been commissioned to complete this welcome artwork for the March 11th opening of Tower Park.(ABC Wimmera: Andrew Kelso )

“This whole project is an incredible thing for the city and its community because they make something of what was previously broken.

“I am so honored to be able to show something out there, for the Aboriginal community here, for the land here, for our animals here.”

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