An unconventional artist, Gunybi Ganambarr, from the remote community of Gan Gan in East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory has won the prestigious Telstra Art Award at the 2018 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA).

This year’s Telstra NATSIAA exhibition at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory is another extraordinary display of Indigenous culture, artwork and storytelling.

Amongst a highly competitive and illustrious field, Ganambarr’s work, Buyku, is a stunningly intricate etching on three-by-three metre aluminium board. It was selected as the overall winner at the 35th Telstra NATSIAA from more than 300 entries and 66 finalists.

The experienced panel of judges, including Kelly Gellatly, Director of the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne; Glenn Iseger-Pilkington, independent curator and art consultant; and Judith Inkamala, artist and senior member of the Hermannsburg Potters selected Buyku and recognised Ganambarr’s deep knowledge of culture and ceremony.

Representing multiple grandfathers (Mari) from the Dhalwangu clan, the arms come together to form a Buyku (fish trap) as seen in the ceremony performed by Yirritja ancestors. The waters from Gadarrpa (Blue Mud Bay) to Gulutji come together to form a family connection.

The artist’s use of materials and processes resulted in a work that the judges say actively engages the viewer physically, intellectually and emotionally.

Telstra is incredibly proud to be able to support the telling, of not only this artwork and artist’s story, but many others, by joining forces again with the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory as Principal Partner of the awards for the 27th consecutive year.

The awards evening had a warm, festival vibe and was hosted by award-winning actress, Miranda Tapsell, and writer and actress, Nakkiah Lui. The audience also enjoyed live performances from Baker Boy, Muggera Dancers, NT Dance Company, Tjukuritja Dance Company (APY), Eip Karem Beizam (TSI), Emily Wurramara, Eric Avery and Mau Power.

Along with the Telstra Art Award, additional category prizes were awarded to six winners celebrating a diverse range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art disciplines and artistic talent.

The Telstra Works on Paper Award was presented to Kathy Inkamala for her pigment ink on pressed paper work titled Mount Gillen, Western MacDonnell Ranges, and South Australian, Peter Mungkuri won the Telstra General Painting Award for his work titled Ngura (Country).

Napuwarri Marawili’s stringy bark with natural pigment work, Baraltja Dugong Yathikpa, earnt him the Telstra Bark Painting Award with his depiction of an ancestral journey, in which a hunting party took to the sea in pursuit of a dugong.

The Wandjuk Marika Memorial Three-Dimensional Award (sponsored by Telstra) was won by Wukun Wanambi for his work Destiny, showcasing the turbulent waters of Gurkawuy River conflicting and clashing with the incoming tidal waters near Trial Bay.

The Telstra Multimedia Award and Telstra Emerging Artist Award, introduced in 2017, celebrates new mediums within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art forms.

This year’s Telstra Multimedia Award was presented to leading cinematographer at The Mulka Project, Patrina Liyadurrkitj Mununggurr, for her film titled Dhunupa’kum nhuna wanda (Straightening your mind). Her film shows the artist painting her forehead with gapan (white clay), which Yolŋu use on their face and body for ceremonial purposes.

The Telstra Emerging Artist Award was presented to 36-year-old Galpu artist Matthew Dhamuliya Gurruwiwi, for his artwork titled Banumbirr (Morning Star poles) and featuring natural pigments, feathers, bush string, bush wax and milkwood. Gurruwiwi believes it’s important for him to keep his culture strong and carry on the traditional art making for the Galpu clan.

Following the Awards Ceremony, the 2018 Telstra NATSIAA exhibition officially opened to the public, exhibiting works from the 66 finalists at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory until Sunday 11 November 2018.

It’s certainly worth the journey to Darwin to see the works of the Telstra NATSIAA 2018, which delivers an unforgettable and enriching cultural experience.