The winning entry to Australia’s most prestigious prize for Indigenous art features the Statue of Liberty and expresses a personal story about sharing Yolgnu culture with the world.
Djambawa Marawill was named as the overall winner at this year’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards at a ceremony in Darwin.
The $50,000 prize adds to the impressive resume of its creator – an important ceremonial leader, a respected sea rights campaigner, and a member of the prime minister’s advisory council.
Made from natural pigments on stringy bark, Mr Marawill's artwork features intricate patterns and complex brushwork.
Titled Journey to America it reflects on his recent travels to the United States from his remote homeland in northeast Arnhem Land.
The Yolngu leader said he uses his art to educate, inspire and seek justice for his people.
“It’s really important to represent our clan groups and our tribes and our countries,” he told NITV.
The prize-winning piece was selected from among 280 entries and 68 finalists and was described by the panel of three judges as a “masterwork”.
“The scale is remarkable, and Djambawa Marawili’s virtuosic use of natural materials and intricate and complex brushwork, honed over decades of dedicated practice, creates dynamic flows and movement across this immense bark,” they said in a statement.
The NATSIAA is Australia’s oldest Indigenous art prize, run by the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) in Darwin since 1984, with support from Telstra.
The NATSIAA exhibition, which will be on show until November 3, has been filled with a “stunning array of thought-provoking artwork” according to the museum’s director Marcus Schutenko.
“MAGNT received such an impressive selection of high-calibre artwork from across Australia and Mr Marawili’s artwork is a clear reflection of this,” he said.
Prizes for works on paper, bark and in 3D, went to the late Nyaparu (William) Gardiner, Noŋgirrŋa Marawili and Malaluba Gumana respectively.
The multimedia award went to Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu, a deaf artist who created a video installation featuring Yolgnu Sign Language.
Titus Nganjmirra from the remote NT town Gunbalanya won the emerging artist award for a portrait of the Queen in a style belonging to west Arnhem Land.
Kaylene Whiskey from South Australia’s APY Lands won the painting award for a modern take on a traditional story.
"The Kungkarangkalpa (Seven Sisters) Tjukurpa is about sisters looking out for each other,” she said.
“I’ve painted seven strong women: Wonder Woman, Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, Catwoman, Dolly Parton and Tina Turner.”