Thomas ‘Marksey’ Marks is a Gunaikurnai man from Gippsland. Being one of many Stolen Generations children, he wasn’t able to grow up on his traditional country. As an adult, he is now reclaiming his Aboriginal identity through art. Marksey yarns with Gman on Big Brekkie. Thomas proudly acknowledges his involvement with the highly successful Pitcha Makin’ Fellas art collective in Ballarat before going to prison. He remembers meeting The Torch CEO, Kent Morris, at Indigenous art exhibitions and events and then again at Ravenhall Correctional Centre, where he joined The Torch Program in 2018.
“I joined The Torch Program because the staff members were encouraging, they offered me valuable advice and most of all they treated you like a person and not a prisoner.” Thomas is motivated by the injustices of his past, as a stolen generations child. This is strongly depicted in the poems written within his artworks. “I guess I focus on things from my past, like the Stolen Generations. “It wasn’t my choice, it’s something that was forced upon me” I not only get inspiration from my Stolen Generations background but through my subsequent life experiences in trying to connect back to my identity, culture and Aboriginality. When I complete a painting, I feel I have achieved a little bit more of the healing process. It gives me a sense of belonging; a knowing of who I really am. It also gives me a sense that I can achieve anything that I put my mind too.”
Thomas developed a unique art style whilst in prison that won him two NAIDOC awards, resulting in his artworks being printed on the annual NAIDOC T-shirts. “During my time in prison, The Torch Program gave me a sense of belief in myself, and the confidence to know I was able to produce artwork and that people would appreciate it. “I like bright colours and the traditional and contemporary combined together. I enjoy experimenting with different styles, like line work and cross hatching, and sometimes dots, but I consider my poems written on my artworks as my unique style” “Becoming an artist has changed me in so many ways. It has given me a better perspective and outlook on life and it has taught me to have patience; I guess it’s created a whole new world for me and has given me a lot more confidence.”