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Announcing The Winners Of The 36th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards

On Friday 9th August, the winners of the 2019 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) were announced, out of a pool of 280 entries from across the country.

The awards welcome entries from established and emerging artists living across the country, and their aim is to reflect the diversity of practices in contemporary Indigenous Australian art. We chat with Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory curator Luke Scholes about the powerful and beautiful winners in the 36th NATSIAA awards!

Below, we share our highlights, and the winners in each category.

12th August, 2019

Pepai Jangala Carrol,’lpili’.

Bugai Whyoulter and Cyril Whyoulter, ‘Wantili’.

Wawiriya Burton, ‘Ngayuku ngura (My Country)’.

Rusty Peters, ‘Garnkiny’.

Nola Yurnangurnu Campbell, ‘All of Patjarr.’

Carlene Thompson. ‘Kipara and Kalaya.’

Mabel Juliwa, ‘Garnkiny, Wadal & Marranji (Moon, star & dingo).’

The 36th NATSIAA awards represent a ‘snapshot of the last 12 months of contemporary Aboriginal art’ explained MAGNA Curator of Aboriginal Art, Luke Scholes. In the middle of finalising the install of the exhibition, Luke took time to chat with us about the diverse entries that were submitted by First Nations artists from both regional and urban areas across Australia.

From the 68 finalists, seven award winners were announced on Friday night at the opening ceremony. The prestigious Telstra Art Award was won by Yolŋu artist Djambawa Marawili AM for his work Journey to America. The work of natural pigments on stringybark, depicts the artists recent travels to the USA to share Yolŋu philosophy. Five different states of water in Blue Mud Bay flow towards America, and the Statue of Liberty.

The artist’s combination of the Australia coat of arms and the iconic female ‘ancestral being’ of the Statue of Liberty is described by Luke as ‘emblematic of the global reach of Indigenous arts practice.’ Djambawa Marawili captures new connections and the international resonance of First Nations culture across the world.

Luke explains that the entries across all categories displayed a ‘real show of cultural identity.’ Read on below to view the stunning painting, works on paper, bark painting, 3D, multimedia and emerging artist awards.

Djambawa Marawili – ‘Journey to America’. Photo – Fiona Morrison.

Telstra Art Award: Djambawa Marawili AM, Journey to America 

This winning work was selected by a judging panel comprising: Art Gallery of South Australia Director Rhana Devenport; established Tiwi artist and cultural leader Pedro Wonaeamirri (Gurrumaiyuwa); and Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Senior Curator of Indigenous Cultures, Zoe Rimmer.

The judges celebrated this masterful and powerful work, explaining ‘The scale is remarkable, and Djambawa Marawili’s virtuosic use of natural materials and intricate and complex brushwork, honed over decades of dedicated practice, creates dynamic flows and movement across this immense bark. The personal narrative within the work articulates his leading role in sharing Yolŋu philosophy with the world.’

Kaylene Whiskey, ‘Seven Sistas’ 2018

Telstra General Painting Award: Kaylene Whiskey, Seven Sistas

‘The Kungkarangkalpa (Seven Sisters) Tjukurpa is about sisters looking out for each other. I’ve painted seven strong women: Wonder Woman, Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, Catwoman, Dolly Parton and Tina Turner. They’re hanging out on the Iwantja Arts sign, hiding from the cheeky wati (man),’ The artist, Kaylene Whiskey explains!

Noŋgirrŋa Marawili with her award winning art work. Photo – Fiona Morrison.

Noŋgirrŋa Marawili, ‘Yirrkala NT Lightning strikes’ 2018

Telstra Bark Painting Award:  Noŋgirrŋa Marawili, Yirrkala NT Lightning strikes 

At the Madarrpa clan estate of Baratjula, a large rock set in deep water was struck by ancestral lightning. This electric ‘curse’ had been cast by Mundukul, the Lightning snake. This depiction has been rendered in natural pigments and discarded magenta print toner (!) by the artist.

Luke Scholes adds that the use of the magenta printer toner highlights the artist’s adaptive practice of creating work with the material at hand, and using any objects that have been left on country.

Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu, ‘Gurrutu’mi Mala – My connections’ 2019

Telstra Multimedia Award: Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu, Gurrutu’mi Mala – My connections

“I was born hearing-impaired so my family and friends communicated with me using Yolŋu Sign Language (YSL). Where I live Yolŋu teach all children YSL from a young age, so it means I can communicate with all Yolŋu from my community easily. YSL is important for hearing Yolŋu also, when we go hunting we use it to communicate from a distance. When I went to school I was taught Auslan (ASL), so now I use YSL and ASL to communicate. Without Yolŋu sign language I would have found it hard to communicate with my community.” Yunupiŋu said.

Emerging Artist award winer Titus Nganjmirra with his depicting on Queen Elizabeth. Photo – Fiona Morrison.

Telstra Emerging Artist Award Titus Nganjmirra, ‘Queen Elizabeth’ 2019

Telstra Emerging Artist Award:  Titus Nganjmirra, Queen Elizabeth

The background of this work depicts the first flag to be planted on Australian country near Sydney. On top of this, Titus painted both male and female Nayuhyungki, the first people, as well as the plants and animals who have lived in the stone country of Arnhem Land for thousands of years. Queen Elizabeth’s face is also found on Australian money. In Kunwinjku, the word kunwardde translates to both ‘money’ and ‘stone’ from English. In this work, Titus plays with meanings of words and origins of culture. Money is symbolic of exchanges between people. The stone country beings demonstrate culture, resources and traditional ways in which bininj people live. Through painting the Queen in West Arnhem Land style, Titus assimilates balanda (white) culture into Kunwinkju culture.

Telstra General Works on Paper Award Nyaparu (William) Gardiner (dec),  ‘Our Old People’.

Telstra General Works on Paper Award:  Nyaparu (William) Gardiner,  Our Old People

‘Doing these paintings is how I remember our old people. These pictures I’m showing you are from my memories. We can’t forget our old people, the law and culture they put us through, my paintings are about remembering them now they passed away,’ artist Nyaparu (William) Gardiner (deceased) said.

Malaluba Gumana, with her winning work ‘Rainbow in the Lilies.’

Wandjuk Marika Memorial 3D Award (Sponsored by Telstra): Malaluba GumanaRainbows in the Lilies 

“This is the oldest story. Rainbow Serpent at Garrimala, a snake in motion disturbing the water, causing ripples and rainbows. Shimmering stagnant water in dry season. Lightning hiding in rainbows. The arc of the iridescent scales. The swathe of the cyclone,” explains artist Malaluba Gumana.

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