• Gumbayngirr rapper, Tasman Keith, had a powerful message in his acceptance speech as the 2021 recipient of the First Nations Arts Dreaming Award. (Australia Council of the Arts)Source: Australia Council of the Arts
The young Bowraville rapper had a powerful message to share, as he joins Mutti Mutti musician, Kutcha Edwards, artistic director Dr Lou Bennett and Worrorra artist, Yorna (Donny) Woolagoodja as worthy award recipients.
Shahni Wellington

28 May 2021 - 2:10 PM  UPDATED 28 May 2021 - 2:30 PM

The 2021 First Nations Arts Awards have been held to recognise the outstanding work and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and their impacts.

On Thursday night, the Australia Council of the Arts broadcast their ceremony on NITV with some stand-out speeches resonating with the audience.

Among them was the Dreaming Award, given to a worthy emerging artist to support them in creating a major body of work.

The winner this year, well-known for his debut EP 'Mission Famous,' was 24-year-old Gumbayngirr rapper, Tasman Keith.

In what was a moment of celebration, the Bowraville artist has also chosen to reflect and pay tribute to the loved ones he has lost.

"Recently, I’ve come to understand the reason why I’ve been blessed to do what I do - that clarity, unfortunately, goes hand-in-hand with trauma.

"I’ve lost a lot of family members, I’ve seen a lot of my close relatives buried and I’ve had to carry that with me throughout my journey,"

"So as much as these moments are for me, they are even more so a moment for them – and most importantly, created by them," Mr Keith said.

He continued to encourage others to speak their truth and to find strength in their community, history and identity. 

The award, which includes an amount of $20,000, will go towards Tasman Keith's next major project.

Kutcha Edwards takes home Arts Fellowship

Mutti Mutti musician, activist and Stolen Generations survivor, Kutcha Edwards, also took home a major nod.

Mr Edwards, who has been combining songwriting and activism since 1991, was awarded the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Fellowship.

‘Circling Time’ is the name of both his latest album and a new music theatre show, both due to be launched this year.

With this fellowship, he will further explore, research and enhance a deeply held connection to his ancestry.

It is a life purpose Mr Edwards re-iterated in his acceptance speech.  

"Music has taken me around the world, places I would never have envisioned going but the reality is that music has given me a foot in the door and the conversation that is needed, especially in this country," he said.

"The conversation I'm willing to have with not only non-Aboriginal people, but with senior men and lore holders and protocol holders.

"What makes me, me, is my connection."

Prestigious Red Ochre Awards for Lifetime Achievements

Recognised as one of the most prestigious First Nations arts awards in the country, two of the Red Ochre Awards for outstanding lifetime achievements have been handed down.

Patriach of the Worrorra tribe and West Kimberley artist, Yorna (Donny) Woolagoodja, and accomplished  Aboriginal composer, Dr Lou Bennett, have been recognised for their decades of work.

Mr Woolagoodja began painting in 1997 and was instrumental in establishing Mowanjum Art and Culture Centre which was completed in 2006.

Under Mr Woolagoodja's leadership, Mowanjum Artists Spirit of the Wandjina Aboriginal Corporation started Mowanjum Festival in 1998 - one of Western Australia’s largest cultural celebrations.

He was honoured for his "unconditional commitment to teach his young people" and deepening understandings of culture.

Dr Lou Bennett has an endless list of accomplishments, and is known as a performer, artistic director, composer, vocal supervisor and research fellow.

Ms Bennett's work was part of the pioneering 'Tiddas' trio from 1990 and was a member of the Black Arm Band from it's very inception.

Across her career she has been the Assistant Musical Director for the original theatre production, The Sapphires, where she was also vocal coach for the lead actors, guiding them through exercises and songs to strengthen their voices. 

For the film, Ms Bennett translated much of the script into Yorta Yorta, and taught the actors to speak and sing in Yorta Yorta.

In her acceptance speech, Dr Lou Bennett thanked those who had nominated her.

"It just made me feel very acknowledged with the work that I've done, I've done over thirty years of work in the arts industry so I am humbly and lovingly accepting this beautiful and prestigious award," Dr Bennett said.