Australia's longest running and most prestigious Indigenous art award, the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) has returned to the Top End, showcasing multiple disciplines of art produced in various mediums by artists from across the nation.
In its 35th year, the Telstra NATSIAA will be held at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) where an exhibition of the finalists will again be curated by MAGNTs Luke Scholes.
The awards bring national attention to the artworks displayed and the stories that have shared them, with many offering an insight into political and social issues affecting our communities. One such previous entry is Girramay and Kuku Yalanji man, Tony Albert’s 2014 award-winning photographic piece titled We Can Be Heroes. Albert produced a photographic series of Aboriginal teenage boys bearing red targets on their chests in reaction to a 2012 Sydney police shooting of two Aboriginal teenagers.
Another such entry that took out the prestigious grand prize just last year was from Pitjantjatjara man, Anwar Young from the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) region with his installation artwork Kulata Tjuta – Wati kulunypa tjukurpa (Many spears – Young fella story). The artwork featured 27 spears arranged in a formation around a photograph of Young, there is text written in language - written, erased and rewritten by Young’s Aunt, photographer Rhonda Dick. The artwork tells two stories through the formation of the spears and in the text, the first to emphasize the national crisis of Indigenous incarceration in Australia and the second, the comfort in returning to culture.
Artist Wukun Wanambi from Yirrkala in North East Arnhem Land is a 2018 finalist with a multimedia video work informed by his regular art practice with bark. He spoke about the importance of creating art and connecting to culture.
“Art and showing identity to the people is better than money”
“Art and showing identity to the people is better than money,” he said. “When I was at school I learnt nothing about art and then when my father passed away I came back to the grass level with the old people and they told me about this story:
“This story is about mullet, this fish rotate between river to river, ocean to ocean looking for their destiny, it’s just like you and I, looking to the internet, looking for our great, great, great grandmother and granddad.”
This year, the awards attracted entries from every state and territory in Australia. From 308 entries, 66 works have been selected for display in the exhibition.
The Telstra Emerging Artist Award and the Telstra Multimedia Award – two award categories introduced in 2017 – will continue this year. Eight awards will be presented on the night, with the judges selecting the most outstanding work in the exhibition for the $50,000 Telstra Award.
The Awards will be co-hosted by deadly duo Miranda Tapsell and Nakkiah Lui, featuring an outstanding line-up of entertainment curated by Creative Director, Rhoda Roberts.
Baker Boy, Muggera Dancers, NT Dance Company, Tjukuritja Dance Company (APY), Eip Karem Beizam (TSI), Emily Wurramara, Eric Avery & Mau Power will also perform on the night.
Marcus Schutenko, Director, Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, said: “We’re inviting everyone to join us on the Museum lawns for an evening of unprecedented live entertainment to celebrate the best Indigenous art from regional communities and urban centres across Australia.
“The evening will resonate with the voices of Australia’s youngest, best and brightest Indigenous performers – all coming together to celebrate the diversity of artistic styles on show at this year’s exhibition.”
Rhanna Collins is a proud Palawa woman and NITV Project Manager. Follow Rhanna @rhanna_collins
Established in 1984, the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards are Australia’s longest running and most prestigious Indigenous art awards. Telstra has been the Principal Partner of the NATSIAA for 27 years and together with the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, deliver this unique annual event to showcase the best in Indigenous art from across the country. The Awards are now firmly established as a key event on Australia’s cultural calendar.
Collectively, the winners this year will receive $80,000 to assist their career development.
The seven winners will be announced at an awards ceremony and exhibition opening at MAGNT on Friday evening, 10 August 2018.