Accomplished Yolŋu artist Djambawa Marawili has been named the winner of the ‘2019 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Awards (NATSIAA)’ at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) for his artwork Journey to America (2018), a meditation on the artist’s recent extensive travels of the United States promoting Yolŋu philosophy.
The winning work, made from natural pigments on stringybark, depicts the colossal neoclassical sculpture, the Statue of Liberty along with five different states of water in Blue Mud Bay, on the eastern coast of Arnhem Land. The main flow of the waters is generated through Marawili singing the fire of the estate of Yathikpa, which is passing from Australia (indicated by the coat of arms) towards America, home of female ‘ancestral being’ the Statue of Liberty.
Journey to America was chosen by a judging panel comprising of Art Gallery of South Australia Director Rhana Devenport, established Tiwi artist and cultural leader Pedro Wonaeamirri (Gurrumaiyuwa), and Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Senior Curator of Indigenous Cultures, Zoe Rimmer. The judges felt that this work by a senior Yolŋu man manifests tremendous spirit, power and energy; ‘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. The personal narrative within the work articulates his leading role in sharing Yolŋu philosophy with the world.’
Additional winners include:
Telstra General Panting Award – Kaylene Whiskey, Indulkana, SA, Seven Sistas (2018).
Painted on a repurposed road sign, this contemporary interpretation of the Kungkarangkalpa (Seven Sisters) Dreaming reclaims well-loved pop culture idols, celebrating sisterhood and female empowerment.
Telstra General Works on Paper Award – Nyaparu (William) Gardiner (dec), Our Old People (2018)
Gardiner’s poignant drawings and paintings frequently recall his time working on pastoral stations in the Pilbara and the Kimberley, with this inventive frieze-like work honouring elders and paying tribute to those who have passed.
Telstra Bark Painting Award – Noŋgirrŋa Marawili, Yirrkala NT, Lightning strikes (2018)
Using discarded magenta print toner along with natural pigments, Noŋgirrŋa Marawili depicts her ancestral lightning in confident iconographic forms with a new language of colour in the tradition of bark painting.
Wandjuk Marika Memorial 3D Award (Sponsored by Telstra) – Malaluba Gumana, Yirrkala NT, Rainbow in the Lillies (2018)
A foremost exponent of marwat (cross-hatching) technique using a finely controlled hairbrush, Gumana’s work depicts her mother’s Galpu clan designs of dhatam (waterlilies) and djari (rainbow) and her deep immersion in these powerful stories.
Telstra Multimedia Award – Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu, Yirrkala, NT, Gurrutu’mi Mala – My connections (2019)
This captivating video highlights the importance of barrkungu wanga (language from a distance) or Yolŋu Sign Language (YSL) for the artist and his community, where it is a part of everyday life used in hunting in addition to communicating with the hearing-impaired.
Telstra Emerging Artist Award – Titus Nganjmirra, Gunbalanya, NT, Queen Elizabeth (2019)
Referencing Australia’s colonial history and the resilience of Indigenous culture, this work juxtaposes ancient iconography with modern by depicting the Queen in the visual language of West Arnhem Land.