Meet the Indigenous artist who helped design the 2023 Women’s World Cup branding


When Chern’ee Sutton was 13, she was having some trouble at school.

Like many kids her age, she was struggling to figure out who she was and where she fit into the world.

She, along with her peers, would often escape into sport — footy, soccer, cricket — seeking a sense of belonging, identity, and community.

But sport wasn’t the only space Sutton used to explore these ideas.

At the same time, with the encouragement of her teachers and family in both Bundaberg and Mount Isa in Queensland, the teenager entered her first art competition with a painting she described as “the balance with Mother Nature”. She won the open category on her first try.

Chern’ee Sutton, from Kalkadoon country, has previously created designs for the NRL, Tennis Australia, and Blind Cricket.(Supplied)

That moment, she says, is what sparked her passion for art — and what, a decade later, has seen the proud Kalkadoon woman create works for state and federal governments, the Commonwealth Games, the Australian Mint, and even the royal family.

“I like to express myself through art,” Sutton told ABC Sport.

“I like to share my history and my culture with the world through my art.

“It’s very much a form of therapy, as well. When I was at school, I’d have a bad day and I’d come home and get into my artwork, and it’d just melt away.

“I’m very much self-taught, but I do have a very creative family. My dad’s a chef by trade, so he likes to claim a bit of creativity there. My mum, she’s always encouraged my siblings and I to express ourselves through art, as well.

“When there’s birthdays or Christmases, she’d encourage us to make our own cards instead of going to the shop. So I’ve always been encouraged by my family to pick up a paintbrush and be creative.

“[Art] does a lot of things for me, but especially sharing the stories and the history and the culture with the world, and creating something different and unique, that’s a big part of what I do and who I am.”

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Sutton’s most recent project has seen two of her loves, art and sport, unite. Alongside New Zealand textile artist Fiona Collis, Sutton was invited by FIFA to help design its official branding for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Unveiled last week, the tournament’s visual identity celebrates the First Nations cultures of the two co-hosting countries, Australia and New Zealand, in an unprecedented way.

For the first time, FIFA has incorporated Indigenous languages into its brand, using traditional place names to describe the chosen host cities.

The design also features a rich, earthy colour scheme and Indigenous motifs derived from larger works that Sutton and Collis took several months to produce.

Sutton’s original painting, titled 2023 FIFA World Cup, which will be used in various ways in the lead-up to and throughout the tournament, is striking.

It combines traditional Indigenous symbols such as hand prints and travelling tracks with bold, modern lines and vibrant, saturated colours.

Her style, in some ways, parallels FIFA’s own ambitions in using the 2023 tournament to both celebrate history and usher in a new future for the sport.

“With my artwork, I like to combine two worlds: my traditional Aboriginal heritage and a lot of contemporary colours and shapes of modern Australia,” Sutton said.

“I get a lot of inspiration from my home country in Mount Isa – the beautiful colours, landscapes and animals – as well as my current home in Bundaberg, which is close to the coast.

“My people, the Kalkadoon people, have used many different dots, lines and various styles in our art for thousands of years.

“I like to put my own contemporary twist on this ancient style … Each dot, symbol and shape represents something different, from rain, to the number of family members, mountains, travelling, and people.

Artist Chern'ee Sutton holding her painting, titled
First Nations artist Chern’ee Sutton holds her artwork, titled 2023 World Cup, which she designed for FIFA.(Supplied)

“The main theme behind the piece is everyone coming together, uniting together. That’s represented by the large community symbol in the centre of the piece.

“There are smaller community symbols dotted around the outside — six of them in different colours — and they represent the different locations where the teams and players come from: the coast and rivers and lakes, the desert, the mountains, the cities. All different places, regions, locations from all around the world who will be travelling to Australia.

“There’s yellow community symbols with travelling lines, and that represents [supporters] travelling to Australia. They’re surrounded by [smaller] dots, which are all the spectators around the world who are watching from afar.

“There are hand prints in the piece as well which represent the connection that the women have with their communities and their families, as well as the support that’s given to them.

“There’s a large snake, which is representative of the rainbow serpent [from] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and history and has been part of Australia for over 65,000 years.

“And there’s a large sun in the piece, too, which creates a brighter future that FIFA is creating for women in the world of sport.”

Photo of Borobi, a koala mascot for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Chern’ee Sutton also helped design 2018 Commonwealth Games mascot Borobi.

Sutton has designed several artworks for other sports, including the NRL’s Indigenous All-Stars jersey, trophies for Tennis Australia’s Summer Series, marketing material for the NBL’s Indigenous Round, and a textured cricket bat for the Blind Australian Cricket team.

She even helped create Borobi, the koala mascot for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

But the scale of the 2023 Women’s World Cup – the biggest women’s sport event on the planet behind the Olympics – made the FIFA invitation, and the governing body’s desire to celebrate Australia’s First Nations communities, particularly special.

“I was overwhelmed really,” Sutton said.

“I was very excited, very honoured. This is a huge event that’s coming up.

“It’s such an amazing feeling. And to see FIFA putting so much time and effort for the local Indigenous people and the different regions, taking us into consideration, you don’t see that very often.

“And sharing the language names with the world! It’s not just Australians or New Zealanders who see this, it’s the entire world that’s seeing these traditional place names.

“It’s helping to revitalise language, as well, which I think is incredibly special.”

Official brand for the 2023 Women's World Cup, showing the logo, colour scheme, and Indigenous motifs..
The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup official brand, including the colour scheme, logo, and Indigenous motifs.(FIFA)

When the tournament finally arrives, Sutton hopes her work is just one part of a larger engagement with the art and culture of First Nations Australians.

“[Art] is part of our heritage and history and our identity — who we are,” Sutton said.

“We are the oldest living culture on the planet and we need to keep our stories, art and language alive for future generations.

“There is much to be learned from Aboriginal culture: we were the first astronomers, miners, and chemists. We have lived in harmony with Mother Nature for over 65,000 years, nurturing our lands and sharing our culture.

“I definitely think welcomes to country [should occur at the tournament], the Aboriginal flag flying next to the Australian flag, I think it’d be fantastic to get traditional dancers as well to help bring up the hype of the games.

Australia's women's football team, the Matildas, pose with the Aboriginal flag before their first game of the Tokyo Olympics.
The Matildas will will co-host the 2023 Women’s World Cup.(AP: Ricardo Mazalan)

“I would love to see the Australian team do a war cry … I think that’s incredibly powerful to see that. You don’t want our team just standing there taking it, you want them to fight back as well.

“It’d be fantastic to have a light show around the field — both mine and other artists’.

“I’ve seen at different events, they have [art] projected onto the field or laser screens around the stadium with the artwork sort of dancing along it.

“Football is amazing because it doesn’t discriminate at all. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, it doesn’t matter what race or nationality or religion you are. If you’re good at it, then everyone supports you and everyone loves you.

“It brings everyone together, as well: the spectators and supporters, the families.

“It doesn’t matter which team you cheer for, it brings everyone together to watch and support and be part of this game.”



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