• Meet the Jingili and Mudburrac street artist challenging the misconceived idea that graffiti street art is a man’s world. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Dreaming of the future and using knowledge of her ancestors Aboriginal past, Nish Cash sprays her messages so they last.
Laura Morelli

17 Oct 2017 - 4:45 PM  UPDATED 17 Oct 2017 - 4:52 PM

Imagine you’re holding onto a fresh bottle of spray paint.

Your hand firmly grasps the can and your pointer finger poised just on top of the nozzle.

You release.

Colours fly out and so does the unmissable, refreshing sound of street art.  



With a gas mask covering her face and a spray can planted firmly in her hand, Narisha Cash is in her artistic element.

The Jingili and Mudburra artist certainly challenges the misconceived idea that the world of graffiti street art is a man’s world.

“When I started out doing graff there wasn’t a lot of females out there. I’d never thought I’d make a living out of it.”

Initially, it was confined to back alleys and abandoned buildings, a practice commonly linked with crime instead of creativity. But now with the help of positive Indigenous role models like Narisha, street art is bursting into Adelaide’s CBD, where her work represents culture, identity and the empowerment of women. Her markings certainly mean more than just a pretty picture.

“I’ve always been surrounded by strong women and it's important for my characters speak that. There’s a lot of strength around being a woman, especially an Aboriginal woman.”

When you enter Art Alley - a laneway renamed by the council for the purpose of encouraging public street art, your eyes are greeted with splashes of vibrant colours. Dolled up divas, some wearing pink makeup, heart tiaras, while others have diamond chockers, mermaid blue hair – the femme fatale posse all represent proud women of colour and power, a trait Narisha is well known for.

“I usually paint strong powerful women with elements of strength and tough qualities through guns, bandanas, and piercings. What appeals to me of the female form is that it’s the giver of life, its Mother Nature, its beauty,” she said.

“I’ve always been surrounded by strong women and it's important for my characters speak that. There’s a lot of strength around being a woman, especially an Aboriginal woman.”

Since the age of 15, Narisha has been spraying the streets. With her alias ‘ISHK’ (the sound of a spray can), what initially was about rebelling, soon turned into a world of opportunities.  

“My family all grew up in Alice Springs but I remember calling Adelaide home. I felt disconnected from culture because of leaving home when I was 12 to live on my own and raise my daughter.”

It wasn’t until after she became a mum, where the 38-year-old wanted to put her creative practices into a career she could pursue. Seeing opportunities arise through council grants and workshops, paved the way for where she is now.

“I used to feel lost, but this journey of art into work helped me become stronger in my identity and finding myself through my creative side.”

The Self-taught aerosol artist uses visual art as a tool to connect young people back to culture in order to bring change to the community in a positive way, especially for disadvantaged youth.

“I try to teach young kids how to use a can properly and condone tagging.”

Her role as a Community Arts and Youth Engagement Officer at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute enables her to provide art based workshops mentoring Indigenous young and upcoming artists. Other projects she’s been involved with enable her to get young juvenile delinquents to stop vandalising and instead use their artistic skills to feature and sell in shops across the country.

“I’ve facilitated workshops for all sorts of kids – Aboriginal kids, mixed races, troubled youth, kids with cancer, all sorts of children.

“I wanted to pursue a career in the artistic field and follow my footsteps… I think it’s important for youth to see Aboriginal people doing good things.”

Her main message for the children is "each one, teach one".

“It’s not about me just teaching young people, they need to teach us too. I listen to them and learn from them and that’s why they respect me. ”

In 2015 Narisha won the Galdys Elphick award for dedicated service to youth through culture and arts. Her aim is to continue providing Indigenous youth with a strong, successful role model.

“I think it’s important for young people to have a variety of ways to express themselves, be it creating public art or transporting spaces into something beautiful,” she said.

“I want kids to get an inspiration to get a career in the artistic field and follow my footsteps… I think it’s important for youth to see Aboriginal people doing good things.”

Young graffiti artist, Shane Cook had a challenging childhood and was struggling with connecting to his identity, but that all changed after he followed in Narisha’s footsteps.

“I met Nish when I was 16, she took me under her wing and showed me the cultural side of art was really empowering and she helped me see where I could take my art.”  

Now Shane wants to get into mentoring for the younger generation, a positive turnaround Narisha hopes will help pave the way for other disadvantaged youth.

The young mother considers aerosol art a contemporary medium which young people connect to. By engaging Elders and young people to work on projects together, her mission is to generate more Indigenous public art with the use of contemporary mediums whilst maintaining traditional aspects of Aboriginal art such as storytelling, culture and symbolism.

“It gives them something to do that’s positive, rather than turning to grog or drugs, enabling kids to turn to music, dance, painting,” she said.

“In our culture, we have the dance, music and arts so it’s important for young people to get themselves out there and be that next generation to get out there and carry that positive torch on and be positive with their outlet.”

Her latest achievement is featuring as one of the four street artists in NITV’s arts programme, Colour Theory, to showcase the vibrancy and meaning of Australia’s Indigenous art scene.

“It’s an honour to be asked to be part of the colour theory scene. Being a graffiti artist it’s amazing to see our artwork on a platform that’s so elevated,” she said.

“I reckon these episodes are really going to open up eyes and inspire youth to be more productive and showcase their skills. I hope to see a whole new generation of kids grasping it and turning it into something that’s the next step of Indigenous art.”

Despite establishing herself as a street artist, Narisha says being a woman has its challenges, but being an Aboriginal woman ‘takes it to a whole new level’. From dealing with white male privilege in the graffiti world to regular rants of racism, she says she works hard for the children of tomorrow.   

“I never compare myself to others, I just keep my head down and move on. I find being around young people to empower and inspire them is rewarding, not racking in the cash.”

For troubled Indigenous youth who feel disconnected to culture, Narisha’s message aims to inspire, empower and educate the next generation.

“I think young people have a whole future ahead of them, go out there and pursue your dreams. I thought I’d never be in this position now and to do something I love is more gratifying than anything. Make these things happen, there are people out there to help support you and I’m one of them.”  

Dreaming of my future, knowledge of my past, I sprayed up my name so that it would last - Nish Cash

Catch Narisha's full story on Colour Theory Episode 3 tonight at 8:30pm on Ch.34


Watch Episode 1 season 3 of Colour Theory at SBS On Demand

Watch Episode 2 season 3 of Colour Theory at SBS On Demand

Colour Theory returns for Season Four and it's all about Street Art
From the outback to the urban jungle, graffiti heralds a new era of Aboriginal artmaking.
Catch up on Colour Theory: Tony Albert with Karla Dickens
For Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens, art is a source of healing and redemption. From her sanctuary in the hinterlands of northern NSW, Karla discovers treasure in the trash of a modern world.
Catch up on Colour Theory - Clive And Julie Freeman
The spectacular coastline of Wreck Bay, on the south coast of NSW, is the galamban or 'home country' of artists Julie Freeman and her son Clive, for whom "Aboriginality is about reading country".
Tony Albert is the new host of Colour Theory Season 3
Award-winning artist Tony Albert will take over the reins for Season 3 of Colour Theory, presenting a fresh take on the Indigenous contemporary arts scene.