The Australia Council
for the Arts is set to celebrate four remarkable artists at the 11th National
Indigenous Arts Awards taking place at the Sydney Opera House this weekend.
The National Indigenous Arts Awards (NIAAs) recognise the
significant contribution of First Nations artists to the vibrancy of Australian
The event, held on May 27th each year, coincides
with the anniversary of the 1992 Mabo ruling, which recognised the rights of
First Nations people as the traditional owners of their land. Wesley Enoch will
MC the event, along with Australia Council Deputy Chair Lee-Ann Tjunypa
The recipients of the two Red Ochre Awards for Lifetime
Achievement will travel from Maningrida in the Northern Territory, and from the
northern Queensland community of Aurukun. The prestigious Red Ochre Award
boasts an extraordinary group of alumni who have been recognised by this award
since 1993, with the addition of a second Red Ochre in 2017.
The Dreaming Award celebrates an inspirational young
artist and gives them the opportunity to create a major body of work through
mentoring and partnerships, nationally or internationally. The Council’s
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Fellowship will also be honoured at
this special event, acknowledging the contributions of a leading artist and
supporting them to undertake a major creative project.
Chair of the Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Strategy Panel, Wesley Enoch, said that he and the Panel were
delighted to be able to recognise these exceptional artists.
“It is so important that we support and celebrate our
First Nations artists at critical moments throughout their careers. The 2018
recipients demonstrate such breadth and richness in their practice, and they represent
a profound sense of cultural strength across the generations.”
Indigenous Arts Awards recipients;
2018 Red Ochre Award (for outstanding lifetime achievement)
Mr John Mawurndjul, from Arnhem Land (NT)
Mrs Mavis Ngallametta from Aurukun community (QLD)
2018 The Dreaming Award
emerging artist aged 18-26 years)
Thomas E.S Kelly (QLD/NSW)
2018 Australia Council
Fellowship (for established artists, supporting creative activity
and professional development for up to two years)
Hetti Perkins (NSW)
Australia Council Chair Mr Rupert Myer AO said this event and the awards
are an important way to reinforce the Council’s commitment to investing in and
celebrating First Nations arts.
“It is wonderful to be able to pay tribute to these
extraordinary artists, and acknowledge their rich contribution to the world’s
culture. Their work is vital to our cultural identity and influence, and
Australians can take great pride in their achievements,” Mr Myer said.
“I congratulate the recipients of this year’s awards and
particularly pay tribute to Red Ochre Award recipients, John Mawurndjul and
Mavis Ngallametta. They are such deeply respected leaders who have achieved so much
in Australia and internationally, helping to strengthen the visibility of
Australia’s diverse First Nations art.
This year’s NIAA awards are supported in part by Australian
Council staff and Board members under its workplace giving program.
More details can be found on the Australia Council’s website.
Brianna Roberts, Media Manager, Australia Council for the Arts
Phone: (02) 9215 9030 Mobile:
0498 123 541
Mr John Mawurndjul
A Kuninjku bark painter and sculptor, Mr John Mawurndjul
is one of the leading Aboriginal Australian artists, receiving worldwide
recognition for his work. He was born in 1952 near Mumeka, an important camping
site for members of the Kurulk clan on the Mann River some 50 kms south of
Maningrida. He grew up at Mumeka and surrounding Tomkinson, Liverpool and Mann
Rivers seasonal camps with only sporadic contact with balandas (non-aboriginal
people). In the late 1970s he was tutored in painting by his elder brother
Jimmy Njiminjuma and Uncle Peter Marralwanga, who showed him how to use rarrk
cross-hatching in new and innovative ways.
Mr Mawurndjul started to paint on small barks generally
depicting natural species and mythological beings such as Ngalyod the rainbow
serpent that guards sacred sites (djang) in all western Arnhem Land. During the
late 1980s he started to produce larger and more elaborate paintings with
complex arrangements of figures. His work rapidly captured the attention of art
critics and in 1988 he won the Rothmans Foundation Award for best painting in
traditional media at NAAA and the first prize at the Barunga Festival Art
exhibition. In 1991 Gabrielle Pizzi Gallery held his first solo show and during
the 1990s his work was included in major overseas exhibitions such as Dreamings in New York (1988), Crossroads in Japan (1992), Aratjara: Art of the first Australians,
Germany and UK (1993-94) and In the heart
of Arnhem Land in France (2001).
In 2000, his work was featured at the Sydney Biennale and
in 1999, 2002 and 2016 he won the bark painting prize at the Telstra National
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award. He won the prestigious
Clemenger Contemporary Art Prize in 2003. In 2004, his work was included in the
landmark survey exhibition Crossing Country, the Alchemy of Western Arnhem Land
held at the AGNSW. In 2005, Mr Mawurndjul was honoured with a major
retrospective of his work at the Musee Jean Tinguely in Basel Switzerland. In 2006
he worked on a large scale commission for the new Musee du Quai Branly in Paris
which has become an integral part of the architecture.
Born in the coastal country of the Kugu people around
Kendall River, south of Aurukun on the Cape York Peninsula, Mrs Mavis Ngallametta
is a Senior Elder of the Putch Clan and a Cultural leader of the Wik and Kugu
People of Aurukun.
As a young girl,
Mavis was taught by her elders in the traditional methods of weaving and
basketry using cabbage palm and pandanus. She grew up in the missionary
dormitories but was able to maintain close links with her family and is known
in the community as a strong Culture woman. She was granted the Community
Arts Achievement Award in 2004 for her contribution to the school and
community, teaching the children the traditional crafts. Mavis has travelled
throughout Australia teaching traditional weaving to adults and children,
performing traditional dance and song and exhibiting her paintings. Mavis
Ngallametta’s weaving is renowned for its dramatic use of colour and
asymmetrical designs and is held in many private collections throughout the
Mavis started to
paint in 2008 during a workshop at the Wik and Kugu Arts and Craft Centre
facilitated by Gina Allain. She has developed
her own original artistic style, depicting imagery based on community life and
Country. Mavis was the winner of the
2013 NATSIA General Painting Award. In her artist’s statement, Mavis says; “It is important for the young ones to
learn traditional ways. While they are young they can learn. It is important to
keep our culture strong”.
Thomas E.S Kelly
Thomas is a proud Bundjalung, Wiradjuri, Ni-Vanuatu
Thomas graduated in 2012 from NAISDA Dance College and has
since worked with the likes of Vicki Van Hout, Shaun Parker and Company, Branch
Nebula, ERTH, Chunky Move, Tasdance, Outer Urban Projects and Urban Theatre
His choreographic credits include his Green Room Award
winning work [MIS]CONCEIVE, VESSEL for Outer Urban Projects and SHIFTING >
Thomas creates work that explores high intensity physical
works stemming from a cultural practice fused with contemporary, which
incorporates voice and physical percussion.
Creating work that ebbs and flows whilst mimicking nature.
Thomas creates work that reveals subject matters that offers an opportunity to
learn and develop. Remembering the past to better understand the present so we
can move forward into the future.
In 2017 Thomas created Karul Projects. A new company led
by new Indigenous voices telling new stories. Karul Projects is resident
company at PACT.
Hetti Perkins is an Arrernte and Kalkadoon curator,
writer, advisor and presenter with 30 years of national and international
experience working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visual arts with
federal agencies, community arts organisations, state galleries and local
After completing a Bachelor of Arts in 1986, Hetti was
employed at the Sydney gallery of Aboriginal Arts Australia, where she worked
with artists in remote and rural community art centres and independent artists,
and travelled to New York as part of the 'Dreamings: Art of Aboriginal Australia'
(1988) exhibition. She curated the 'Aboriginal Womens Exhibition' for the AGNSW
in 1991 and national tour and worked on the establishment of the Yiribana
Gallery. Following this, as Curator at Boomalli in Sydney, she initiated a
program to expand its premises and profile and presented many exhibitions in
Sydney and internationally with a focus on artist members and NSW artists.
In 1997, as a freelance curator, Hetti co-curated 'fluent'
as Australia's representative exhibition at the Venice Biennale and commissioned
work by dancer Russell Page. For 14 years Hetti was Curator and then Senior
Curator at the AGNSW where she expanded the collection, curated several major
exhibitions, edited significant publications and wrote and lectured
extensively. She wrote and presented 'art and soul', two three-part documentary
series, for ABC TV, and co-produced four series of 'Colour Theory' for
SBS/NITV. She was co-curator of the Australian Indigenous Art Commission at the
Musee du quai Branly, Paris.
Hetti is a past member of the Visual Arts Board of the
Australia Council and the boards of the MCA and MAGNT.
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