Alumna explores dual-heritage through art

USQ Visual Arts alumna heads to Japan for six-week residency and exhibition
8 Nov 2018

Elysha Rei grew up as a child of two cultures, deeply fascinated by her mixed heritage passed down from her Japanese and Australian ancestors.

The fusion of cultures and communities inspired her foray into visual arts, and has driven her artistic journey ever since.

By embedding narrative and symbolism within a Japanese design aesthetic, her works have taken the form of portraits, patterns and paper cuttings, and have been translated into large-scale murals and public art commissions.

Following her graduation from the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) in 2008, Ms Rei has taken her work across Queensland, Melbourne, Sydney, Darwin, New Zealand, Thailand and the USA.

Her next art adventure will again take her overseas, but this time it holds special significance.

Ms Rei has been selected, one of 32 artists from a nationally competitive grant round, for a six-week residency and exhibition in Japan as part of the Asialink 2018 Creative Exchange.

“I was last in Japan 10 years ago as an English teacher, but now I’m returning with a strong sense of purpose to create art work which connects with my family’s Japanese heritage,” she said.

The USQ alumna will spend four weeks as an artist in residence at Studio Kura in Itoshima, making paper cut art works exploring her Samurai ancestor’s armour-wear.

The rest of the trip will include the preparation for and presentation of a solo exhibition at No. 12 Gallery in Tokyo.

“I feel very honoured to be representing Queensland and Australia in the prestigious program,” Ms Rei said.

“Asialink Arts made this happens with the support of the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.

“After a year-long battle to beat breast cancer, I’m ready to travel and take-on the next challenge.”

Ms Rei said her grandmother was one of the first Japanese war-brides to migrate to Australia in 1953.

“Our lineage can be traced back to the famed warlord daimyo Samurai Katagiri Katsumoto, of the Azuchi–Momoyama period through early Edo period,” she said.

“I have always wanted to explore my Samurai ancestor further and have already started researching his armour.

“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer that took on an even greater meaning, as I became a warrior myself.

Woman's face next to paper cutting art
Artist Elysha Rei graduated from USQ in 2008