Indigenous artist Yama Harradine takes inspiration from manga, anime to bringing Wimmera scenes to life

A digital drawing of a man looking at the camera
Yama Harradine says his style is always evolving.(Supplied: Yama Harradine)

Help keep family & friends informed by sharing this article


Anime and manga are often used to portray fantastical worlds and bright characters. Now, a regional Victorian artist has taken inspiration from the Japanese art forms to depict life in the small Wimmera town of Dimboola. 

Wotjobaluk artist Yama Harradine was captivated by animation growing up, and has created a signature style of anime-inspired drawing to portray topical issues, local animals, and his own journey as a transgender man.

“I didn’t even know what anime was really, I just thought that it was a cartoon and eventually I just sort of ventured into anime not really thinking that much would come of it but I just really enjoyed the style,” 21-year-old Harradine said.

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

A stylised drawing of a man winking at the camera with a finger to his lips
Growing up, Yama was always a big fan of animation such as Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z.(Supplied: Yama Harradine)

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

“I hated art, I hated graphics. I just didn’t like that there were so many rules because to me … yes, there are anatomy rules, there are shading rules, lighting rules, but I didn’t like that everything was so based in realism,” he said.

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

Drawing inspiration from animals

Animals are a regular motif in Harradine’s work but he holds a particular interest in felines.

“I really have just been into cats — domestic or wild,” he said.

“I’ll see a cat which might look like mine to an outside view but I can spot all the differences between them.

“They’ve always got a unique feature or face shape or even [a] behaviour that you can express in a drawing.”

When Harradine looks at an animal, he doesn’t just see the generic species — he looks for the idiosyncrasies that make every individual creature unique.

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

“Dingoes have a broad snout in a softer way; it’s not very bulky, and also dingoes are known for the white tip at their tail … [I like] just sort of keeping all those things in mind.

“You can really tell the difference between pretty much all animals.”

On country, about country

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

Working on country, attending youth camps and spending time with his family instilled in him a passion he said he hadn’t considered as much growing up.

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

“Being involved with decisions that are culturally made … it made me have more of an interest in my culture.”

A digital drawing of an Indigenous elder at the top, with four Aboriginal people below across against a black backdrop.
Yama Harradine wanted this piece to reflect a sense of Aboriginal protest across multiple generations.(Supplied: Yama Harradine)

Harradine said observing local customs when painting was extremely important.

“The thing with Indigenous art is that certain areas have different rules with what you can do, so personally around here, dot art shouldn’t be a very evident appearance in what I do when I do apply traditional Indigenous methods,” he said.

“I think that’s my way of representing this area, by staying true to its rules.”

Harradine said being Indigenous and trans in a small rural town could be isolating.

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

“I like to focus more on the Indigenous side of things rather than the trans side of things but I still like to include it because both are very real things and they coexist, and they have in all sorts of Indigenous cultures.”

But while Harradine said he was proud to be on his journey, Harradine says he did not want his gender identity to define his life or work.

“The more I transition the more at peace I feel within myself, to the point where I don’t have to obsess about being trans,” he said.

“People expect of me for trans to be my personality but it’s just what I am.”

Harradine has just opened up commissions for his art, partly to help fund the final stage of his transition.

‘This will always be my home’

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

Harradine was invited to complete a welcoming artwork for the park that included endemic bird species.

“And I thought, ‘what better way to welcome than introduce things that are specific to this area that Dimboola can own?’

A metal sign on a fence depicting a brown circle with cockatoo motifs and local Indigenous group names around the outside
Yama Harradine has been commissioned to complete this welcoming artwork for the opening of Tower Park on March 11.(ABC Wimmera: Andrew Kelso )

“That whole project is something incredible for the town and its community because they’re making something of what was broken previously.

“I’m pretty honoured to be able to display something there, for my Indigenous community here, for the land here, for our animals here.”


Write a comment