A painting by five women is the winner of the People’s Choice category in this year’s Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA).
Titled Seven Sisters, the major work is by Freda Brady, Maringka Tunkin, Sandra Ken, Tjungkara Ken and Yaritji Young.
The sisters all come from the remote Aboriginal community of Amata in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in the far north-west of South Australia.
The work is six square metres in size and uses vibrant colours and markings to represent the story of family protecting and teaching each other. In a prepared statement, the artists said their work “tells of women being chased by a bad man but being protected by their elder sisters”.
They said the painting also includes the tjala (honey ant), which refers to their country and the community art centre where the women work.
“When we work together as a family we are learning from each other and teaching each other. Our family is strong because we teach all our young women this important tjukurpa (the force which unites Anangu with each other and with the landscape),” they said.
Luke Scholes, curator of Aboriginal art at the Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory (MAGNT), said Seven Sisters was a deserving winner of the award.
“[It’s] epic in scale and composition ... highly emotive and contributes to the dramatic story it tries to encapsulate,” Mr Scholes said.
“Audience members have commented on how the subtle figurative elements in the painting beautifully combine with its strong iconography.”
Mr Scholes said the success of the work was “testament to the talent, kinship and country these strong women share”.
Marcus Schutenko, Director of MAGNT, said the 35th NATSIAAs was widely considered to have included the strongest selection of artworks ever gathered for a single art award and congratulated the Ken Sisters collaborative for taking out the People’s Choice Award.