On Friday last week, the winners of the 2022 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) were announced in a spectacular awards ceremony on the Darwin Harbour waterfront. This year Telstra NATSIAA became the richest art award in the country with the overall prize pool doubling to an incredible $190,000!
Margaret Rarru Garrawurra, Senior Yolŋu artist from Laŋarra, Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory took out the coveted Telstra Art Award, and a whopping $100,000, with her incredible 2.8metre hand-woven sail, Dhomala (pandanus sail).
“I was with my sisters when I found out about winning. We were very happy. It makes us proud to get first prize,” says Margaret.
Rebekah Raymond, Arabana, Limilngan-Wulna, Wuthathi, and Mualgal woman, and MAGNT’s Curator of Aboriginal Art and Material Culture says, “It’s a beautiful work by a master weaver. The sail is an epic piece of weaving… the scale and colours are amazing and it references an important part of history.”
Dhomala (pandanus sail) ties to Margaret’s cultural identity, as well as the historical relationships that endure between Yolŋu people, and the people of modern-day Indonesia.
“Yolŋu people were watching Makassan people weaving their dhomala over time… then they started to make them. My father picked up the skill as well. He used to make them, Makassan dhomala. I was watching my father making these dhomala. He was making them, and I was watching. I thought about how he made them, my father, and I started remembering. And now I’m making these,” Margaret explains.
Maragaret’s Dhomala (pandanus sail) has been coloured using immersion dying, a technique that’s been widely practised since the late 1700’s. She has become renowned for her use of this technique, in particular her recipe for creating black dye (mol) from local plants. While other Yolŋu weavers may use small amounts of mol in their work, the use of mol alone in a work is reserved for Margaret and those whom she gives permission.
Margaret’s piece was selected from an impressive line up of 63 finalists, including intricate woven pieces, ceramics, sculptures, photography, multimedia and paintings.
“There are 44 language groups represented in the exhibition,” says Rebekah. “There are so many personal stories sitting side by side… it reflects the amazing diversity in the practice.”
Read on to learn more about the six winners, and what the judges had to say about their powerful work!