• Harold Joseph Thomas (Bundoo) with his winning piece 'Tribal Assassination' at the NATSIAA 2016 (Image: Carla Orsatti)
It’s one of the art world’s premier events and tonight the Telstra NATSIAA awards held in Darwin showcased and celebrated the diverse range of talent and contribution from Indigenous artists across the country.
Emily Nicol

5 Aug 2016 - 10:22 PM  UPDATED 5 Aug 2016 - 10:25 PM

With a range of contemporary and traditional artworks amongst the large selection of 75 finalists, deciding on just a handful of winners was a tough job for the judges of NATSIAA. However, at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory on Friday 5 August the decision was made. Here are the winners of the 33rd Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards


 33rd Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Art Award Winner

 'Tribal Abduction' by Harold Joseph Thomas (Bundoo)

Luritja / Wombi

Humpty Doo NT

Northern Territory Artist Harold Joseph Thomas (Bundoo) has taken out the 2016 NATSIAAs main prize with his artwork reflecting on the devastating repercussions of the removal of children from their family. Of the impactful artwork the judging panel stated. “The potency of the subject matter coupled with Thomas’ practiced hand and classical composition make the work a compelling choice this year. The tension and anger in the work is contrasted with the dread and fear often espoused in accounts of ‘stolen’ children. Particularly, the painting depicts the violence present in the act. It also speaks to the legacy of generational trauma and this positions the work both as an affecting history painting and a blazing commentary on the ongoing manifestations of colonial brutality."


The major prize is $50,000 which Thomas stated would go towards replenishing his art supplies and beginning work on his next major piece. “I’m just overwhelmed and honoured to receive such a prestigious award, which shows the excellence of artists and craftspeople throughout Aboriginal and Torres Strait Australia” said Mr. Thomas. 

The Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory  have run the awards since 1984, and Director Marcus Schutenko congratulated Thomas on his win. "This winning work by local artist Harold Thomas presents a raw truth which provides space for cathartic reflection." Schutenko also remarked on the quality of works entered this year. "The judges were provided with the breadth of what is happening across Australia and a strong representation of country, culture, identity and politics. From what was an extremely competitive field, Vernon, Kimberley and Don have brought together a wonderfully eclectic assembly of finalists whose works have created a spectacular exhibition.” 

Telstra General Painting Award

'Antara' by Betty Kuntiwa Pumani

Pitjantjatjara / Yankunytjatjara

Mimili SA


The judging panel stated of this years General Painting Award winning entry. “This work achieves a great sense of fluidity and movement that is not always present in field paintings of this scale. The impressive choice of palette creates an elaborate tonal depth that pulls the viewer into the work.” 

 Telstra Bark Painting Award

'Dilebang' by John Mawurdjul


Milmilngkan NT

'Dilebang' by John Mawurdjul a natural earth pigment on bark depicts a traditional story. "This place is djang, a secret sacred site, where in the earliest of times, the creator being Ngalyod, the Rainbow Serpent, made itself present. The white arch depicted in the work is a rock inside the waterhole, the bone of the Serpent and on a profane level a rainbow across the sky, associated with the Rainbow Serpent." -John Mawurdjul

The judges comments on this years Bark Painting Award winner. “John Mawurndjul’s masterful hand shone through in this category with his intricate line work in Dilebang. His accomplished technique has ensured that there are no weak points across the surface of the bark that strongly details the sacred site of Djang and the creation by Ngalyod the rainbow serpent. This beautiful work is a reminder of why artists still chose bark as a platform to express who they are.” 


Telstra Works on Paper Award 

'Battle of Bikar' by Robert T Pau

Meriam Mir

Cairns QLD

Robert T Pau describes his award winning entry. "Battle of Bikar is from the series “Black wars of Torres Strait” I am currently producing. The battles that occurred in the Torres Strait were not meaningless merciless killings, they were primary based on protection of territory and resources. This battle happened on Erub (Darnley Island) in the eastern Torres Strait.

The judging panel stated "The cinematic composition of the battle scene, dense with detail of the Erub people fighting in the Battle of Bikar, was the judge’s first impression of this work. It evokes classical war painting, depicting a central staged battle filled with a vista of busy action. We witness the warrior figures across the sky calling the people to fight. It is a work of strength, power and fighting for Country. 


Wandjuk Marika Memorial 3D Award (Sponsored by Telstra)

'We Are All Animals' by Nicole Monks


Alexandria NSW

"I saw a bird stuck inside a building, frantically trying to escape. Exhausted, the bird eventually settled itself by looking out the window to the outside world. After a while, the bird began to nest and create a home. Like this bird, I too find myself trapped between  worlds." - Nicole Monks 

Of the winning performance piece the judges commented. "The judges were incredibly moved by Nicole Monks’ performance work, We are all animals, a powerful attempt to negotiate a space as an Aboriginal women caught between two worlds. This deeply personal and heartfelt work critically looks at colonial legacy. Monks’ sheds the trappings of the wool, through the use of the sheepskin covering her head, whilst wearing an elaborate emu feather skirt. Recovering and reflecting, her pose evokes museology and archival photography."

Telstra Youth Award

'Sunlight Energy II' Isamael Marika

Yolngu Matha

Yirrkala NT

Sunlight energy II by Ishmael Marika is a clear, well-constructed film that gives the viewer a strong sense of the way light influences the space around us. The work poetically shares Marika’s experience of feeling the energy from the sunlight at Lake Mungo while also incorporating the elements of earth, wind, fire and water and capturing how sunlight informs each. 

 All category winners received a $5,000 prize.

The judging panel for the awards change each year and this years panel consisted of well known contemporary artist Vernon Ah Kee, artist and philanthropist Don Whyte and senior curator of South Eastern Australia Aboriginal Collections, Museum Victoria, Kimberley Moulton. 

This years event was a special celebration of 25 years of Telstra's primary sponsorship of the awards, with a specially curated night of live performance from Actor & Writer Rhoda Roberts featuring East Journey, Excelsior, Djakapurra Munyarryun, Shellie Morris, Moonfish Productions and Jannawi Dance Clan.

NITV will be uploading a photo gallery of the event

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