Artist Damien Shen works on his portrait of Archie Roach.

Celebrated Ngarrindjeri artist Damien Shen had long aspired to work with Archie Roach.

The chance came earlier this year when he was approached by Reconciliation South Australia to draw the revered Aboriginal singer-songwriter.

Shen saw it as a unique opportunity to honour Archie and his generation of Aboriginal Elders.

The portrait was presented for silent auction at the Reconciliation Week Breakfast in February to support the reparation of the Stolen Generations.

“The day before the breakfast, I went to meet Archie,” Shen says.

“We went into the theatre area and he signed the drawing. I remember the look of appreciation on his face. He’s just an incredibly humble man.

“It was a great experience to be able to work with him, firstly from a distance, and then to get together and meet with him.”

Centacare Director Dale West purchased the emotive work which was officially installed this week.

“The portrait is about honouring a man who’s had an incredible career as a musician and is a role model to the Aboriginal community,” Shen says.

“We are on the cusp of losing a particular generation of Elders so this was an opportunity to engage with Archie and to learn, and we must never take these opportunities for granted.”

Shen is now intent on artistically documenting and capturing his own family’s cultural identity.

“Embrace Aboriginal people, embrace our history and be proud of it,” says the 2014 NAIDOC South Australian Artist of the Year.

Represented by Melbourne-based MARS Gallery, Shen currently has works on exhibit at the Adelaide Town Hall, King William St, until August 19. His next solo exhibition will open at MARS on September 3, followed by a show at Nexus Art Centre, corner of North Tce and Morphett St, city, as part of OzAsia.

For more information on Shen, visit

*Archie Roach will play at the Riverland NO:RI Music Festival, Barmera, in October.