Archie Roach receives the prestigious Red Ochre Award 2011
26 May 2011
Archie Roach receives the prestigious Red Ochre Award
Portrait by James Penlidis
The life and career of acclaimed songman Archie Roach was celebrated at the 4th National Indigenous Arts Awards the Sydney Opera House.
A singer, songwriter, storyteller and mentor, Archie receives the $50,000 Red Ochre Award for his lifelong contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts at both a national and international level.
The awards, presented by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts (ATSIA) Board of the Australia Council for the Arts, recognise outstanding Indigenous artists as nominated and selected by their peers. They are a celebration of the vibrancy and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture.
A storyteller in the tradition of his ancestors, Archie’s songs speak of sorrow but console through a message of hope and reconciliation. He is known by his peers as a philosopher whose songs resonate deeply with people of all nations.
Archie is a crucial figure for many younger performers, frequently finding opportunities for the next emerging talent to join him on stage. Performers such as Dan Sultan, Missy Higgins and John Butler all cite him as a mentor and inspiration.
Born in northern Victoria, Archie lived on the Framlingham Aboriginal mission before being forcibly removed from his family. He grew up in foster homes and did not discover his Aboriginal heritage until he was 14 when he hit the road, travelling and performing for many years before settling down with his soul mate, musician Ruby Hunter, who sadly passed away last year.
Encouraged to start writing songs about his own life by an elder, Archie first performed ‘Took the Children Away’ to a large crowd at La Perouse, near Botany Bay, in 1988. He told Arts YarnUp magazine that after the performance there was silence. “The old people just gathered around me, crying because they were taken away too. I didn’t realise the extent of what was going on in this country.”
‘Took the Children Away’ went on to receive an international Human Rights Achievement Award and Archie went on to produce six albums, including the ARIA award-winning Charcoal Lane.
“From the moment Archie started performing in the late 1980s, he has captivated and inspired audiences with anthems such as ‘Beautiful Child’ and ‘Took the Children Away’,” says the Chair of the Australia Council ATSIA Board, Dr Mark Bin Bakar. “He is an outstanding Australian artist who has given us a vital cultural legacy for generations to come.”
Also announced tonight is the winner of a two-year Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Fellowship. Kylie Farmer, whose acting credits include Juliet in the Australian Shakespeare Company’s production of Romeo and Juliet and Kay in Belvoir Street Theatre’s revival of The Sapphires, will use the $45,000 per year fellowship to pursue a career as a director. She will make her directorial debut with David Milroy’s award-winning Windmill Baby Theatre in July 2011 for Belvoir Street, where is the company’s associate artist for the year.
Three new initiatives will also be announced tonight: The Dreaming Award for young and emerging artists, the Accelerate Indigenous Leaders Program with the British Council, and 21st Century Stories which invites ideas for arts projects that that explore and celebrate events that have made and shaped Australia over the last decade.
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