From Orroroo to Utopia
by HELEN HAWKES
Perhaps it is being one of nine children that made Grant Rasheed determined not to be lost in the crowd. Whatever the motivation, the owner of local Bangalow art gallery Ninbella has lived his life in as exciting a manner as befits someone with an adventurous spirit and a desire to excel in the creative and hospitality industries. Call into his Byron Street gallery, opened in December 2017, and you will be fortunate enough to see the work of noted contemporary Indigenous artists as well as talented locals.
Linger a little and you’ll be able to talk about art, culture and life with Rasheed, whose career life has spanned banking, boutique coffee, fashion, hospitality and art and domiciles ranged from London, La Jolla USA and Milan to the island of Corfu and outback Australia.
His work history is dotted with surprising highlights – he helped establish a coffee warehouse for upmarket clientele such as Christine Manfield, Neil Perry and Steve Manfredi; he taught English to Gianni Versace and his international showroom collators through an English Language Institute; he designed and co-ordinated a cocktail reception for Australians at the Milan Furniture Fair, on behalf of the Australian consulate; he was sponsored by the major contractor to Milan Fashion Week to create an exclusive event showcasing avant-garde designers within a beautiful 16th century palace, Palazzo Visconti…
Rasheed grew up on a sheep farm in Orroroo, in the remote Flinders Ranges of South Australia, in a family of Irish and Assyrian descent.
After leaving for London, he moved to Milan at the age of 23, where he designed and manufactured quality men’s knitwear and took part in international shows and fairs with his then Italian partner.
He returned home after 20 years and eventually landed at the Prairie Hotel in the remote Northern Flinders Ranges, South Australia, in a town with a population of only seven.
“I longed to go back to the bush, for the serenity, and I accepted the roles of Manager and Head of Customer Guest Relations,” he says.
His energy reinvigorated, Rasheed turned The Prairie into the hippest stopover spot for international visitors including Sir David Attenborough as well as prestige magazine teams who arrived for fashion shoots. In 2016, it was voted Australia’s number one outback tourism hotel.
In 2006, after an opportune meeting with an outback Indigenous art gallery owner, he was offered the opportunity to establish and curate a gallery at the hotel to further his love for indigenous culture.
Since 2007, Rasheed started supporting Better World Arts, an organisation that benefits Indigenous communities in Australia, Kashmir, India and Peru.
For 12 years he curated and grew the Prairie Gallery as well as held exclusive exhibitions of art work from artists such as Kudditji Kngwarreye, Gloria and Kathleen Petyarre and Joy Kngwarreye Jones, in Milan, Florence and China.
Rasheed, since his early 20s’ has always wanted to live in the Byron Bay area, where he continues to use his talents to gain access to works of indigenous art to display in homes across Australia as well as globally.
Those who know him will agree that his career to date is a demonstration of how to combine creative talent, emotional intelligence and a passion for people and the arts, as well as a skill for making connections, into a life that resonates with meaning.