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Celebrating the 2019 Telstra NATSIAA People’s Choice Award winner

By Genelle Sharples November 1, 2019

Australia’s most prestigious Indigenous art prize – the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) – is a haven of unique artistic expression each year. After thousands of votes from around the country, we’re ready to announce the People’s Choice Award winner for 2019.

Over 68 artists took part in this year’s awards, but only one could emerge as the People’s Choice winner. Esteemed artist and senior Gija man, Rusty Peters of Warmun in Western Australia, is this year’s winner.

Peters’ artwork, Garnkiny 2019, features ochre and natural pigments on linen, coming together to depict an incredible night sky scene.

Peter says that the work is about “the time when the moon sulked because of his mother-in-law. Because of that, he became the moon. Linga ngenarn-noongoo. I was thinking about him (and made the painting).”

“The story I gave you, that Garnkiny, he wanted to marry his mother-in-law, and the ones that where the right skin said “What doyou want to do that for? You could marry us,” but the Garnkiny fell in love with his mother in law. Nowadays, everybody marry wrong skin. That Garnkiny is a true story,” he adds.

Before he painted, Peters spent his youth on cattle stations, living a storied and creative life over his 84 years. His peers in Warmun country are exceptionally proud of him.

Stephanie Rajalingam is Warmun’s Art Centre Manager, and said that “Rusty’s thematic painting of Garnkiny has to be one of the most romantic depictions of the scintillating Kimberley night sky. As a highly ranking senior elder at the Warmun Art Centre, his capacity to continue creating profound images of power never ceases to inspire us. We are so proud of Mr. Peters.”

For 28 years, we’ve been a passionate supporter of the NATSIAAs and in 2019, together with MAGNT, we were delighted to be able to bring the Telstra People’s Choice Award to a national audience.  For the first time, all Australians were able to vote online for their favourite artwork from the 68 Telstra NATSIAA finalists. 

We congratulate Rusty Peters as the 2019 Telstra NATSIAA People’s Choice winner.

The 2019 Telstra NATSIAA runs until 3 November 2019 at MAGNT Darwin. Preparations for the 2020 awards are now underway, with entries for the 2020 Telstra NATSIAA opening soon.

Learn more about Telstra NATSIAA here.

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2019 Telstra NATSIAA winners announced, People’s Choice voting opens

By Genelle Sharples August 9, 2019

Yolŋu artist Djambawa Marawili AM has won the prestigious Telstra Art Award at this year’s 2019 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) in Darwin. Voting now opens for the People’s Choice Award until early November.

Journey to America 2018

Created in his homeland of Yilpara in East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, Marawili’s artwork Journey to America 2018 reflects on his recent extensive travels to the United States promoting Yolŋu philosophy.

Made from natural pigments on stringybark, the artwork was selected as the overall winner of the 36th Telstra NATSIAA from more than 280 entries from 68 talented finalists. Journey to America 2018 was selected by an experienced judging panel comprising Art Gallery of South Australia director Rhana Devenport, established Tiwi artist and cultural leader Pedro Wonaeamirri and Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery senior curator of Indigenous cultures Zoe Rimmer.

In their comments, the judges praised the tremendous power, energy and spirit of the piece. “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.”

The ideas and philosophy represented in Marawili’s work flow like sacred maḏarrpa saltwater between the two countries, moving from Australia’s coat of arms to the Statue of Liberty, the US’ iconic female ancestral figure. The entire piece shows five different states of water in Blue Mud Bay on the eastern coast of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory – the Yirritja estates of Yathikpa, Baraltja coastal and Baraltja riverine, and the Dhuwa waters of Djarwarrk and Dhudi Djapu.

In addition to the major $50,000 Telstra Art Award prize, NATSIAA includes six categories across multiple art disciplines. The 2019 category winners, who each receive $5000 for their winning works, are:

Telstra General Painting Award – Kaylene Whiskey, Indulkana, SA

Seven Sistas 2018

In their comments, the 36th Telstra NATSIAA judges said of Whiskey’s work: “In this irreverent interpretation of the Kungkarangkalpa (Seven Sisters) Tjukurpa (Dreaming), Kaylene Whiskey invents and casts her own heroic women onto an imaginary stage within her community at Indulkana. By reclaiming televised pop culture idols she celebrates female empowerment and sisterhood by creating an exuberant drama and in a playful twist superimposes the scene onto a repurposed tourism road sign. Connecting generations and cultures, Kaylene paints her Tjukurpa to a loud soundtrack of classic rock, pop, and country music.”

Telstra General Works on Paper Award – Nyaparu (William) Gardiner (dec), South Hedland, WA

Our Old People 2018

“Heartfelt and highly personal, this inventive frieze-like work on paper honours elders and remembers people who are now gone. Originally a storyteller in Nyangumarta language, Mr Gardiner’s poignant drawings and paintings of people and place frequently recall his time working on pastoral stations in the Pilbara and the Kimberley. There is an intimacy in this ambitious work that connects directly with our humanity.”

Telstra Bark Painting Award – Noŋgirrŋa Marawili, Yirrkala NT

Lightning strikes 2018

“In a radical reinterpretation of materials, Noŋgirrŋa Marawili has interspersed a new language of unexpected colour into the tradition of bark painting by recycling the ‘found materials’ of magenta print toner. Noŋgirrŋa is a senior woman working from Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre at Yirrkala. The confident iconographic forms in the work carry important cultural knowledge informed by her strong familial ties.”

Telstra Multimedia Award – Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu, Yirrkala, NT

Gurrutu’mi Mala – My connections 2019

“This is an exciting and inspirational multimedia work that tells a highly personal story about communicating cultural identity and connection. The artist casts himself in this captivating digital video, highlighting the importance of barrkungu wanga (language from a distance) sign language within the everyday life of his Yirrkala community where he works as a cameraman and film editor. This is an important work in its remarkable translation of cultural language through the language of art. The work is timely given that 2019 is the UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages.”

Telstra Emerging Artist Award – Titus Nganjmirra, Gunbalanya, NT

Queen Elizabeth 2019

“This sophisticated and concentrated work is both serious and playful, referencing Australia’s history of colonisation and the resilience of Indigenous culture and in particular the visual language of West Arnhem Land. This work is a vigorous mix of ancient cultural knowledge and recent events that have irrevocably shaped the politics and governance of this land.

Voting now open for People’s Choice

We’re always proud to sponsor the NATSIAA, the country’s longest running and most prestigious Indigenous arts awards – now in their 36th year. We have supported the awards for 28 of the past 36 years, and are looking forward to the future and an extended partnership for another three years ahead.

Australian Indigenous art is unique and unlike any other genre – it represents the history of our country through many different mediums, chronicling and capturing over 60,000 years of Indigenous life in forms as diverse as rock paintings, body art and canvas and preserving language and culture for Australia’s First Nations people.

We believe that understanding and interacting with Indigenous art helps share ideas and culture around our diverse nation, and we hope our work with MAGNT to steward the NATSIAA over its history brings people closer together and helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people thrive.

Voting in the People’s Choice Award for the 36th Telstra NATSIAA is now open to all visitors to the awards exhibition at MAGNT Darwin. If you’re in the area, please visit the MAGNT gallery and experience the beauty of this year’s NATSIAA winners for yourself.

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Telstra NATSIAA 2019 finalists speak their truths through art

By Genelle Sharples July 4, 2019

As we prepare to celebrate the incredible and diverse range of talents on display at this year’s Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) – presented by the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) – it’s important to reflect on how the field affects everyone it comes into contact with.

Australian Indigenous art is unique in its form and is unlike any other genre of art. Our First Nations’ people don’t simply use art to express emotions or represent beautiful scenes; Indigenous art is about storytelling and representing the history of this country through a range of mediums. Indigenous art represents over 60,000 years’ worth of history, stretching as far back as stories told through rock paintings.

Fred Grant - NATSIAA 2019 Finalist

Indigenous art – whether expressed through rock art paintings, body art, or canvas – is used to pass on information, stories and symbols for later generations. Some Indigenous art even serves to preserve languages native to Australia’s First Nations people.

The TelstraNATSIAA is the longest running and most prestigious Indigenous art prize in the country, and as a result, it attracts an incredible breadth and depth of talent.

We spoke to four of our 68 Indigenous artist finalists about their work, and asked them to share the stories of their art in their words.

Gutingarra Yunupingu (Guti)

Guti is a rising star in the Indigenous art world. Born deaf, Guti uses his artistic talents to capture the stories of his kin via film and digital media. He describes his work as “an expression of myself, my land and my people”.

At just 21 years of age, he is already the chief editor of a local art centre, and was one of the only young men in Yirrkala to complete his year 12 studies. Guti says “[his] film art is mostly autobiographical. I like to show my life and my land to the audience.”

This year, Guti’s entry is entitled “gurruṯu mi’ mala”, which he says means “my connections”.

“Gurruṯu is the connections and kinship that Yolŋu share with one another. In this artwork I am signing the Yolŋu gurruṯu names and demonstrating my position in the world of gurruṯu. These gurruṯu signs are very important to me because they represent my family.”

“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 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, so now I use YSL and Auslan to communicate. Without Yolŋu Sign Language I would have found it hard to communicate with my community – it has helped me make my way in this world.”

Nici Cumpston

Nici is a finalist in this year’s NATSIAAs, and brings her unique experience working on crime scene photography to capture new scenes for her art.

“I was a Photographic Technician with the South Australian Police Department (SAPOL) for 6 years in the 1990s. I developed and printed film from red light and speed cameras as well as crime scene, accident investigation and the forensic science laboratory. Only the police officers worked as photographers. I studied fine art photography and it is possible that the way I work as an artist has been influenced by my experience with SAPOL.”

Previously, Nici won the Work on Paper Award in the 2015 Telstra NATSIAA.

In her own words, Nici says she uses “both analogue and digital cameras to create photographs. I enlarge and print my images which are either colour orblack and white, andI hand colour my black and white images.”

“The work I have entered is a colour photograph which I have printed as aRorschach. It is an image which was taken on the shores of Nookamka Lake, in the Riverland of South Australia.

“As an artist, I work on many different ideas and concepts. The entry for the award this year is part of an ongoing series which is looking at sites of Aboriginal occupation within the landscape.”

Kent Morris

Kent has been a NATSIAA finalist for the past four years and produces large-scale photo works. While he has links to New South Wales through his identification as Barkindji, Kent has also worked in Victoria as part of The Torch.

The Torch works with Indigenous prisoners in Victoria to use art as therapy, and Kent works as the program’s head. Indigenous Australians make up 3 per cent of the general population yet account for almost 30 per cent of the prison population and are 15 per cent more likely to go to prison than non-Indigenous Australians.

Through its Indigenous Arts in Prisons and Community Program, The Torch provides art, cultural and arts industry support to Indigenous offenders and ex-offenders throughout Victoria. By embracing program participants as artists rather than offenders, The Torch provides an avenue to change by encouraging participants to explore identity and culture through art, develop confidence and define new pathways for themselves upon release from prison.

His NATSIAA 2019 entry, “Family Lines – Country Has a Memory”,is a large digital photograph which represents three Barkindji sisters who married three Ngemba brothers, “my great aunts and uncles on Dad’s side of our family. Two families who are continuously connected by time and place. Barkindji and Ngemba people share close ties to family, Country and culture.

“Our stories continue to defy and reshape colonial interventions, many of which have attempted to erase our histories and connections. These stories are embedded in the land even after it’s many transformations. I see and feel them, then reconstruct and transmit them for maintenance and renewal.

“My art practice reveals the continued presence and patterns of Aboriginal history and culture in the contemporary Australian landscape, despite colonial interventions that have irreversibly altered the environment.

“Through my artworks I am reconstructing the shapes and structures of the built environment. The new shapes of the built environment, and the shapes that colonialism brought with it, are being re-imagined and reconstructed to reflect the long history of Indigenous people in this country and to reaffirm continuity, identity and connectivity.”

“The Telstra NATSIAA provides an important forum for the expressing and exchange of ideas and highlight the diversity of Indigenous cultural practices today. Engagement with artists, artworks and arts industry professionals who attend the exhibition provides inspiration and cultural exchange opportunities.”

Krystal Hurst

Indigenous art takes all shapes and forms, including wearable art. Krystal Hurst is an emerging artist and jewellery maker. “I create, explore and share my work under my business Gillawarra Arts, and handmake wearable art with currently available materials and natural materials from the land, rivers and sea. I use shells, native seeds, seaweed, feathers, and laser cut on wood and plastic. To me it is important to tell stories, share knowledge and utilise language in a meaningful way. I am very new to silversmithing, and I have plans to develop this practice further and exhibit more of my wearable work,” she says.

Her entry this year is an imitation of echidna quills and wattle seeds made from bronze metal. “For me they are an expression of strength, survival, knowledge and resilience. I’ve had this piece in my mind for about a year and to see this image come to life means everything to me as a Worimi artist. I am really proud of this piece and looking forward to seeing it on display in August.”

“I grew up watching and helping my mother make jewellery among other crafts and arts for markets. It wasn’t until I got older and reflected and realised that I was doing something similar to my ancestors. For me now, I’m still exploring and expressing what it means to be a First Nations woman in modern Australia and understand how colonisation has impacted my land and people, particularly cultural practices. Within my pieces I hope that I can shed light on issues, express culture and identity, and show that Indigenous jewellery is empowering.”

“For me wearable art is a statement. It also holds knowledge, stories, memories and conversations that is connected to our culture that extends millennia. At times, wearable art has the ability to influence our emotions in ways words cannot describe. When I wear pieces I’ve made, I feel strong, connected and beautiful and if my pieces can do that for other people as well, I know that my purpose as a creator holds power and is important.”

The Telstra NATSIAA awards ceremony is on Friday 9 August and the exhibition runs from the 10 August – 3 November 2019 at MAGNT.

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Telstra NATSIAA in 2019: Celebrating diverse and accessible First Nations art and artists

By Genelle Sharples April 30, 2019

68 Indigenous artists from across Australia have been selected as finalists for the 2019 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA), the country’s longest running and most illustrious Indigenous art awards. We’re proud to sponsor the awards, now in their 36th year, and to extend our partnership for another three year long collaboration.

Supporting the NATSIAA for 28 of its 36 years means that we have seen how supporting a focal point of our country’s finest Indigenous artists further showcases their talent, shares their stories and expresses their imagination. We believe it is an important part of Australian society to share ideas and culture through artistic expression, in all its diverse forms.

Working with the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory to display Indigenous culture through artwork and storytelling in the Telstra NATSIAA, we believe in a vision for an inclusive Australia where all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are connected and empowered to thrive. It is with the deepest respect that we support this long-running and prestigious awards program and are proud to announce a significant partnership milestone with MAGNT for the next three years.

MAGNT; Telstra NATSIAA 35 Exhibition Documentation11 August - 11 November 2018National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards

Across the eight awards categories, First Nations artists from urban and regional areas across Australia submitted 280 entries in the 2019 NATSIAA, with finalist judging taking place last week in Sydney. Collectively, winners this year will receive $80,000, including the $50,000 Telstra Art Award for the work judged most outstanding in all categories and the Telstra Emerging Artist Award of $5000 awarded from any category to an artist working in their first five years of practice.

Telstra NATSIAA Awards Category Entries

  • Telstra Bark Painting Award
  • Telstra General Painting Award
  • Telstra Works on paper Award
  • Wandjuk Marika Memorial Three-Dimensional Award (sponsored by Telstra)
  • Telstra Works on Paper Award
  • Telstra Multimedia Award
  • Telstra Emerging Artist Award

35 finalists are from the Northern Territory, with 16 from Western Australia, nine from South Australia and the remainder from Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT. The judges’ panel is made up of influential Tiwi artist Pedro Wonaeamirri (Gurrumaiyuwa), director of the Art Gallery of South Australia Rhana Devonport, and Senior Curator of Indigenous Cultures at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Zoe Rimmer.

MAGNT; Telstra NATSIAA 35 Exhibition Documentation11 August - 11 November 2018National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards

MAGNT Curator of Aboriginal Art Luke Scholes has praised the incredible quality of this year’s entrants. “Once again, the calibre of this year’s Telstra NATSIAA finalists is extraordinary. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art continues to evolve, and Telstra NATSIAA continues to be the place to witness this shift in process.

“The emerging artist category continues to breathe new life into the Awards and the broader arts sector. It’s rewarding to profile these trailblazing artists and to share their skill, voice and cultures.”

The winners of the 2019 Telstra NATSIAA will be announced at an awards ceremony at MAGNT’s museum and art gallery at Bullocky Point on Friday August 9. We thank MAGNT for its work stewarding and preserving the culture of Indigenous art in Australia, and we congratulate all NATSIAA entrants and finalists for sharing their beautiful craft with us all.

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Dreamtime at the museum: 2018 Telstra NATSIAA a festival of Indigenous culture

By Genelle Sharples August 11, 2018

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.