A life in music honoured with top Indigenous award
29 May 2012
The Australia Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board is proud to present the $50,000 Red Ochre Award, Australia’s highest peer-assessed award for an Indigenous artist, to Western Aranda country musician Warren H Williams for his outstanding contribution to the Indigenous arts.The award is presented today at the 5th National Indigenous Arts Awards, held at the Sydney Opera House. Also presented is the inaugural $20,000 Dreaming Award, for a young and emerging Indigenous artist, awarded to Nakkiah Lui, a playwright from Western Sydney.
Two fellowships of $90,000 over two years are also announced, one going to musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu and the other to ‘digital native’, Jenny Fraser.
Warren H Williams is a singer, musician and song writer from Hermannsburg in Central Australia. While known widely as a country musician, he brings together many threads of the contemporary Australian sound, merging Aboriginal music with country and rock, bringing these musical genres onto a world stage.
“Warren plays a vital and unique role in the Australian music industry,” says Lee-Ann Buckskin, who was appointed Chair of the Australia Council ATSIA Board this week. “He’s a quiet achiever who not only shows young people the way to have a successful career in the music industry, but also dedicates his energy to issues of health, Aboriginal rights and the environment.”
“Whenever he talks, people listen; and when he plays, whether it’s in the laneways of Melbourne, in youth centres in Alice Springs, or live on national television – crowds are mesmerised by his music,” says Lee-Ann.
The turning point for Warren’s career came when he joined with John Williamson to sing ‘Raining on the Rock’ – the duet became an anthem for reconciliation and one of Australia’s most recognised country songs.
Warren’s achievements have been recognised through many awards including NAIDOC Artist of the Year in 2006, the Country Music Centenary Medal from the Country Music Association of Australia in 2004, and a Golden Guitar with John Williamson & Amos Morris for ‘Australia Is Another Word For Free’ in 2009.
To date, Warren has released nine albums. His latest offering is a move away from country music to a language album Winanjjara, or ‘song man’ in Warumungu language. It was recorded with the song men of Tennant Creek and sung in two of his maternal ancestors’ languages: Warumungu and Western Aranda.
With his Red Ochre prize money, Warren plans to go to the US country music capital of Nashville to create an album.
“If there is anyone who deserves to be acknowledged for his integrity, commitment and compassion towards his fellow Aboriginal artists and community, it is Warren H Williams,” says Lee-Ann.
Dreaming Award recipient Nakkiah Lui is a 25-year-old Gamilaroi and Torres Strait Islander woman who grew up in Western Sydney. A passionate playwright, she draws heavily from her own life and community in the Mount Druitt area, which has a large Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. She wrote her first play while studying in Canada as a way to share her culture with an international community.
Nakkiah is currently a resident playwright at Belvoir, Sydney. The award prize of $20,000 allows her to continue her work at Belvoir with her mentor; director and dramaturg Andrea James.
She will write a new play that will receive development assistance, including a staged reading at Belvoir in 2012. Nakkiah aims to explore the role of an Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer’s conflicts while working within the police force. The Dreaming Award money will give her the resources to do the required research.
“Nakkiah is a talented emerging playwright with a unique voice,” says Lee-Ann. “She exudes enthusiasm about her work and future career. Her vision for a play examining the tensions surrounding the role of Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer was both clear and compelling.
“I’m very pleased to see the inaugural Dreaming Award presented to someone who will undoubtedly grow to be an important, Australian voice.”
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu will use his fellowship to create a large-scale music and surround multi-screen sensory installation with imagery drawn from his homelands. Audiences of his new digital installation will be able to hear and smell the ocean, and experience the land and community of the remote Elcho Island.
Much of Jenny Fraser’s work as a screen-based visual artist, writer and curator defies categorisation. Through her fellowship she is set to challenge audiences again with her latest unusual storytelling project, Midden.
Midden will celebrate unsung heroes and previously unspoken events in a non-linear documentary. Jenny will use shells, along with screen-based and performance elements to enhance, reframe and remix stories, to create new ways of engaging audiences.
The Australia’s premier Indigenous arts awards a presented
Sunday, 27 May 2012 in the Utzon Room at the Sydney Opera House, 3.00 - 5.00pm.
Audio and images from the event are available on request
The National Indigenous Arts Awards are presented annually by the Australia Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board to outstanding Indigenous artists as nominated and selected by their peers.
The awards are a celebration of the vibrancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture and a snapshot of the outstanding diversity of Indigenous arts in Australia today.
Red Ochre Award recipients 1993-2011
2011 Archie Roach 2001 Bunduk Marika 2010 Michael Leslie 2000 Mervyn Bishop 2009 Gawirrin Gumana 1999 Justine Saunders 2008 Doris Pilkington Garimara 1998 Bob Maza 2006 Tom E. Lewis 1997 Jimmy Chi 2005 Seaman Dan 1996 Maureen Watson 2004 John Bulunbulun 1995 Rita Mills 2003 Jimmy Little 1994 Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri 2001 Bunduk Marika 1993 Eva Johnson
This media release can also be viewed in an emdedded frame below (we recommend using the 'view in fullscreen' viewing option), on the Australia Council's Scribd account or downloaded as a PDF (122 KB).
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