See The Incredible Winning Artworks From The 2023 Telstra NATSIAA!

Now in its 40th year, the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) are Australia’s longest-running and most prestigious Indigenous art awards.

The annual event brings together some of the most significant artworks from across the nation, with this year’s edition drawing 63 finalists from a total of 246 entries.

Keith Wikmunea, a Thu’ Apalech artist from Aurukun in Far North Queensland took out the major award (and $100,000!) for his joyful and masterful carved sculpture, alongside six other category winners. Take a look at their works, which are now on show at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Darwin!

Christina Karras

Dust Storm, by Rachael Lionel.

Galiku, by Dhopiya Yunupiŋu.

Nawernwarre Nawalawalak dja Kinga – Two Brothers and the Crocodile Story, by Glen Namundja.

Left: Lalai, by Betty Bundamurra.

Right: Gay’wu (string bag), by Mary Dhapalany.

Left: Moving Back to Country, by George Cooley.

Right: Ḻapakarra ga Boḏuk – How the Lizard and Cockroach got their colour (Gamaḻa ŋga miny’tji), by Matthew Djipurrtjun Teapot.

Left: Shell Memories, by Elisa Jane Carmichael.

Middle: kurina (eaglehawk), by Jeanette James.

Right: Ngayuku Ngura (My Home), by Emma Singer.

My sister Barbara painting, two kids and papa (dog) playing ’round, two camels standing there at an outstation near Mutitjulu, by Billy Tjampitjinpa Kenda

Kulata Tjuta, by Frank Young.

Me and my Sister Trudy Telling Story, by Dulcie Sharpe.

Ngayuku Ngura – My Country, Nturiya (Ti Tree) 2, by Barbara Mbitjana Moore.

Left: ‘Milika/Pungalu’ (Rocky Point Landscape) – A Place of Fertility, by Arnold Joseph Tipiloura.

Right: Baru Country, by Wendy Hubert.

Miyaringa (woven pandanus mat), by Raelene Kerinauia Lampuwatu

Left: Jarlaloon, by Patrick Mung Mung.

Right: Cu 2, by Shirley Macnamara

Top: Dear Dolly, With Love, by Jahkarli Felicitas Romanis.

Left: Ngayangay (Food – old and new), by Harry Guyumbirrirr Malibirr.

Right: Ngayuku Ngunytjunku Tjukurpa (My mother’s story), by Umatji Tanya Tjapalyi

Minymaku Tjukurpa (Women’s Story), by Betty Campbell.

New Days, Ntaria, by Joanne Napangardi Wheeler.

Left: Milŋiyawuy – Heavenly River, by Naminapu Maymuru-White.

Right: Yathikpa – the fire in the sea, by Wurrandan Marawili.

Left: Dog tag to be human, by Jingalu.

Right: Ngaginyji joomooloony, by Eileen Bray Joomena.

Exile, by Balwaldja Wanapa Munuŋgurr.

Christina Karras
14th of August 2023

The winners of the 2023 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) have been announced!

Keith Wikmunea, a Thu’ Apalech man and artist from Aurukun in Far North Queensland, took out the prestigious Telstra Art Award and the $100,000 prize for his sculptural piece, Ku’, Theewith & Kalampang: The White Cockatoo, Galah and the wandering Dog.

The towering artwork proudly showcases Keith’s spiritual emblems known as totems, featuring the white cockatoo from his father’s side and the galah from his mother’s side. It took more than two months for him to carefully carve the sculpture from timber by hand, before painting it with traditional ochre.

‘The colours on this tree are specific to my clan, the Thu’ Apalech people. In Wik-Mungkan, my first spoken language, we call this tree yuk thanchal,’ Keith says. ‘This tree is also known as [Milkwood] in English and is the same tree that my ancestors have been using since the beginning of time.’

He told media he was incredibly proud to have taken out the award, and had plans to use the money to buy a boat and a car, so he could take his family back to his Country, where they could go camping and fishing together.

The judging panel selected Keith’s piece from 246 diverse entries from across Australia, while six other artists were named as the winners of the individual category awards, each winning $15,000. All 63 finalist’s works are now on display in a special exhibition at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) in Darwin.

MAGNT’s Curator of Aboriginal Art and Material Culture, Rebekah Raymond, says each of the finalists’ works was deeply personal to the artist, but many also shared timely messages about climate change, health, mining, loss of wildlife, and the ongoing impacts of colonisation.

‘Every year [of the awards], you’re seeing what the artists are responding to in their own lives and their own communities,’ Rebekah says.

The resulting showcase is a beautiful celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and their cultures — and the powerful role art plays in continuing it, as the oldest living culture on Earth.

Read on to learn more about the winners, and what the judges had to say about their powerful works!

See the Telstra 2023 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards exhibition now at MAGNT until 18 February 2024.

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Left: wanha, dhika, nhawi?, by Dhalmula Burarrwaŋa. Courtesy of the artist and Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre

Right: Ku’, Theewith & Kalampang: The White Cockatoo, Galah and the wandering Dog by Keith Wikmunea. Courtesy of the artist and Wik & Kugu Aurukun Arts Centre.

Telstra Art Award (right)

Ku’, Theewith & Kalampang: The White Cockatoo, Galah and the wandering Dog, by Keith Wikmunea

Judges comments: ‘The extraordinary scale and presence of Ku’, Theewith & Kalampang: The White Cockatoo, Galah and the wandering Dog reveals the master carver at work. The remarkable execution of the work captures the strong sense of community life that invites the viewer to enjoy.

The ceremonial dots on the tree are identifiable with Wik and Kugu people of Western Cape York. With the totem birds above always nearby, we are transported to sitting under a tree in the shade, guarded by the Ku (camp dog) who represents the protector of family. This is an exemplary winning work.’

Telstra Emerging Artist Award (left)

wanha, dhika, nhawi? by Dhalmula Burarrwaŋa

Judges comments: ‘When viewing Dhalmula Burarrwaŋa, wanha, dhika, nhawi? we were heartened by the fun and playfulness they capture in everyday life. Cleverly assembled as a group of bark paintings that reflects our sense of humour and “Black Comedy.”‘

Ngapa Jukurrpa (Water Dreaming) – Pirlinyarnu, by Julie Nangala Robertson. Courtesy of the artist and Warlukurlangu Artists.

Left: Aṉangu History, by Anne Nginyangka Thompson. Courtesy of the artist and Ernabella Arts.

Right: Ngalkodjek Yawkyawk, by Owen Yalandja. Courtesy of the artist and Maningrida Arts & Culture.

Telstra General Painting Award (top)

Ngapa Jukurrpa (Water Dreaming) – Pirlinyarnu 2022 by Julie Nangala Robertson

Judges comments: ‘We feel this painting captures the essence of rain and a Dreaming story that has existed for millennia. It depicts a story of two storms that joined as one that carried across Country until they stopped at its resting ground.

An understated work that bears witness to our connection to culture, Country and nature. A generational knowledge story, passed down like the artistic practice that is reminiscent of the artist’s mother.’

Wandjuk Marika Memorial 3D Award (Sponsored by Telstra) (bottom left)

Anangu History by Anne Nginyangka Thompson

Judges comments: ‘As judges, we loved beautiful sculptural form of these vessels inscribed and rendered in glaze. The objects depict a universal story of a lifestyle that has been forced upon us.

We were informed by the impact of change through the bright orange glaze and reminded how it’s hard to come back to the old ways of living on Country because of what is deemed “progress.”‘

Telstra Bark Painting Award (bottom right)

Ngalkodjek Yawkyawk by Owen Yalandja

Judges comments: ‘We felt that the overall execution and intricacy of Ngalkodjek Yawkyawk was breathtaking. The depth and detail of this work gives the illusion of the shimmering of yalk yalk (mermaid) scales on the undulating of the bark. As you approach the work and interact with it, you gain a deep sense of power and movement.’

Left: Just Beneath the Surface, by Jimmy John Thaiday. Courtesy of the artist and Erub Ewer Meta Torres Strait Island Corporation.

Right: blood/memory: Brenda & Christopher II (Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra; Mara/Nandi/ Njarrindjerri/Ritharrngu; Anglo-Australian/ Chinese/German/Irish/Scottish) 2, by Brenda L Croft. Courtesy of the artist.

Telstra Multimedia Award (left)

Just Beneath the Surface by Jimmy John Thaiday 

Judges comments: ‘Ethereal and emotive, the imagery of Jimmy John Thaiday being caught and strangled by the ghost nets is haunting.

The artist’s work is a testament to our responsibility in protecting Country, the ocean and all living things, because without our natural resources there is no human life. The viewer is drawn to a series of imagery that reveals just how vulnerable island life is today. We need to ensure that it is preserved and maintained for future generations.’

Telstra Work on Paper Award (right)

blood/memory: Brenda & Christopher II (Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra; Mara/Nandi/Njarrindjerri/Ritharrngu; Anglo- Australian/Chinese/German/Irish/Scottish) by Brenda L Croft

Judges comments: ‘This is a powerful work that speaks to the deep and tender connection of family, the labour and love of caring for one another. As judges, we were struck by raw emotion of Matrilineal/patrilineal blood/memories connect Brenda with her son/nephew.’

The balance of the fierce nature and gentleness of the photograph, speaks to an intergenerational story of a mother’s love and protection of her child.’

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