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34th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards

Established in 1984, The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) has been providing a platform for the diverse practices of Indigenous artists for 34 years, while fostering a deeper understanding of Australian culture and society.

This year’s awards had 300 entries and 65 finalists. Winners were announced on August 11th, with prizes being adjudicated over by independent curator Emily McDaniel, Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art Director Chris Saines and artist Regina Wilson.

South Australian artists Anwar Young, Frank Young and Unrupa Rhonda Dick were the recipients of the top prize, the $50,000 Telstra Art Award, for their multimedia collaborative work ‘Kulata Tjuta – Wati kulunypa tjukurpa (‘Many spears – Young fella story’), which was considered by judges to be the most outstanding work across all six categories.

The winning artwork comprises 37 spears, digital prints, wood, kangaroo tendons and kiti (natural glue), and tells of the Anangu (Central Australian Aborigines). Speaking about this work the artists note: ‘We see many young men from remote communities becoming stuck in a cycle of reoffending and being locked up in juvenile detention centres, like Magill and Don Dale. We are concerned the whitefella way of locking people up isn’t working.’

The trio instead advocate for returning young men to the country to work with senior men, and help look after families and communities. Anwar and Unrupa have also been working with their grandfathers on this project, learning the traditional art of making kulata (spears).

In addition to the main award, each additional category winner was awarded a $5,000 prize. This year, two new categories were also added: The Telstra Multimedia Award, which allows multi-disciplinary artists to enter innovative and exciting works using digital content, and the Telstra Emerging Artist Award, which provides an avenue for artists in the first five years of their practice to gain widespread exposure and help launch their careers.

Telstra Art Award and Telstra Multimedia Award
(for multidisciplinary and digital works)
Anwar Young, Frank Young and Unrupa Rhonda Dick for ‘Kulata Tjuta – Wati kulunypa tjukurpa (Many spears – Young fella story)’.

Telstra General Painting Award
Matjangka (Nyukana) Norris for ‘Ngura Pilti’, her synthetic polymer paint on linen artwork.

Telstra Bark Painting Award
Nyapanyapa Yunupiŋu for ‘Lines’, her earth pigments on Stringybark. We recently profiled the wonderful North-East Arnhem Land artist in our Indigenous Art column.

Telstra Works on Paper Award
(including photography, print making, drawing)
Robert Fielding for ‘Milkali Kutju (One Blood)’, his synthetic polymer paint and ink on burnt and pierced paper artwork.

Wandjuk Marika Memorial Three-Dimensional Award
(sponsored by Telstra)
Shirley Macnamara for her ‘Nyurruga Muulawaddi’, aged spinifex vessel.

Telstra Emerging Artist Award
Betty Muffler for ‘Ngangkari Ngura (Healing Country)’, her synthetic polymer paint on linen artwork.

​’34th Telstra NATSIAA’ Finalists Exhibition
August 11th to November 26th
The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
19 Conacher Street, The Gardens, Darwin

​All entries are currently on exhibit at MAGNT in Darwin. Visit the website for more information, judges’ comments, and to view all entries, here.