I plan to catch up with Sarana Haeata, imagining sharing a bottle of wine at a local bar. What I get is very different but ultimately much better.
“It’s better if you come here,” she says, “so we can talk during Lyra’s nap time”. When I get to Sarana’s home, I’m greeted with big barks at the fence by a tiny dog and Tom (husband) supervising 3 kids jumping on the trampoline, their heads bobbing up and down over the fence line.
At the door, I am met by a smiling but tired Sarana, her youngest is napping after a sleepless night. Ten minutes into the visit however, Lyra is carried out by 8 year old Isbel. Lyra sits with us quietly staring at me while we chat.
In this busy household, Tom is a full time teacher and Sarana is building a professional creative business as ‘Hang with me Studio’. She also does contract social media and photography work for small local businesses and a bit of freelance graphic design. I ask her how she juggles it all; Sarana replies ‘the juggle is real’. “Yep!” chimes in Tom as 6 year old Ivy ‘hides’ behind me ruffling my hair while Avalon (2) is crying at the dog for eating her toy.
Sarana admits her ‘need’ to create and being a mum of 4 sometimes causes burnout and she must make a conscious effort to look after her physical and mental health. On the flip side, she explains that creating also keeps her sane. It seems to me, this balancing act produces beautifully genuine work, inspired by this struggle. One of my favourite pieces of hers is a self portrait where her 3 little girls, shopping bags and a coffee are literally hanging off her (before she gave birth to her 4th) and she jokes she will have to draw Lyra in some day so she doesn’t feel left out.
Self portrait 'Ode to the mother'. June 2019
Sarana is no stranger to large households. As a young child she lived in a multigenerational home with her Maori grandparents, aunties, cousins, her mum and brother until they moved to a predominately white and wealthy area of Sydney to be nearer to Sarana’s dad. We get chatting about the black lives matter movement and what it means to her.
Sarana reveals that the current BLM climate has triggered her to revisit difficult questions about her own cultural identity. She explains that as a child she was proud of her Maori culture but was plagued with a feeling of not quite belonging in either the white world or the Maori world – a feeling she recently found out was also experienced by her brother.
After a reflective personal journey, Sarana now proudly identifies as a Maori woman of colour without feeling she is denying her white Australian heritage passed down through her father. She has let go of not feeling ‘Maori enough’ and embraces her Mother’s heritage as her own. Her feet are now steadily planted in both cultures and she feels secure of her place in them.
Srana holding baby Lyra 6 months. April 2020
Sarana’s art has always depicted positive, strong and confident women and girls of colour. When scrolling through her Instagram feed, I can see how genuinely her art reflects her ideas, life, struggles and love for family. Although Sarana often creates alone, the people who surround her provide constant inspiration. This really hit me when I sat in her house to talk to her while her husband and girls came in and out, chatted, asked questions, played, read books and napped around us.
It was an honour to be let into the fold that drives Sarana’s venture ‘Hang With Me Studio’. As explained in her insta bio she truly is ‘Carving out a creative life while bringing up 4 glorious girls’.
The whole family! Oct 2019
You can purchase art from Sarana from her website www.hangwithmestudio.com and her Instagram account @saranahaeata, commission a piece or have her work on custom illustrations for your social media account. Her talents and mediums are numerous so if you like her work, get in contact with her for your next project.
Sarana is responsible for most of our professional product photos and will soon be creating some illustrations for us, how exciting.
We thank her for her time and sharing her life and practice with us, we feel grateful to be around such talent and truth.