Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands artist and Western Arrernte man Vincent Namatjira is set to release a children’s book which depicts the life of his great-grandfather, artist Albert Namatjira.
The book pays homage to the late artist from the remote South Australian outback, capturing his triumphs and tragedy against a backdrop of social change and historical injustices.
Speaking to NITV News on Friday, Vincent said he was proud to share his great-grandfather's story as it was an important one in Australia.
"To make this book, it's for young readers who don't know Albert Namatjira, especially parents who can read to their kids," he said.
“I hope it helps their understanding of our history – they might not know that it wasn’t so long ago that Aboriginal people weren’t considered Australian citizens.
“I also hope that it encourages more recognition and respect of our Indigenous leaders and role-models, past and present."
Vincent's book illustrates Albert's life from when he was born and raised at the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission outside Alice Springs, to when he became the first Indigenous person in Australia to be granted restricted Australian citizenship, giving him the right to vote, have limited land rights and buy alcohol.
In 2020, Vincent became the first Indigenous artist to win the Archibald Prize and was the recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia.
His work is inspired by his great-grandfather Albert who passed away in August 1959.
Vincent said despite never having the chance to meet his great-grandfather, he feels as though his work is the next chapter in his legacy.
"To me, it's like I'm giving this book back to him [Albert]," said Vincent.
“When I first heard that I was the relative... the great-grandson of the great and famous Albert Namatjira... the best water-colour painter in Australia... that feeling to me was the biggest amazement of my life.
“Today, where I'm living, continuing my painting and my researches on my great-grandfather and then sharing it out to the world, it's like I'm carrying on his legacy."
Children's book illustrator and bookseller Phile Lesnie praised Vincent’s work.
“Albert Namatjira is simply a triumph of painting, of biography, of history, and of tribute. Magnificent,” said Lesnie.
“Vincent’s bold, expressive and witty paintings are accompanied by evocative text, that records the pivotal moments in Albert’s life.
“I think every kid in Australia should know the story of Albert Namatjira – one of this country’s most important artists.”
Albert Namatjira the book will become available for purchase on August 2.
‘Who is Namatjira? Namatjira could be anybody’: Archibald winner Western Arrernte man Vincent Namatjira talks to Take It Blak host Rachael Hocking about growing up in foster care, learning about his famous Namatjira surname, and what it means to be the first Blackfulla to win the Archibald Prize, and build his own legacy as a contemporary figurative artist.