Koori Mail Indigenous Art Award 2021 finalists

Forty-nine finalists have been selected from more than 119 entries for the first Koori Mail Indigenous Art Award 2021. The award has attracted entries from established, mid-career, and emerging Indigenous artists Australia-wide, working across a wide variety of mediums. The youngest and oldest artists are separated by 58 years.

Finalist works include works by senior artists from Ramingining in the Northern Territory. Joy Burruna has painted sand palms, the fruits of which have been used by Yolngu people of north east Arnhem Land for many centuries as food and medicine. Testimony to the artistic heritage of Burruna, her mother was one of the first women painters from Ramingining. Joy has continued this tradition, and her daughter and granddaughter are both painters. The cross-hatching effect in Burruna’s work is a traditional technique created with the use of a rarrk brush collected from Country.

Joy Burruna, Wurrutjara (Sand Palm), 2021, acrylic on canvas, 51 x 41cm. Courtesy the artist

Working in a very different medium but still within the realm of empowering traditional knowledge and culture, Moorina Bonini’s powerful video work, Gowidja, presents a new picture of the future. In her words – ‘A near and Indigenous-led future where all centralised governance and power has been dispersed outwards amongst Indigenous people and communities. In this future we have ownership of our cultural materials and objects, autonomy over our representation and agency to achieve our self-determinism.’ Bonini challenges narratives placed upon Aboriginal people as a result of colonisation. Bonini’s practice is based within Indigenous knowledge systems and brings this to the fore.

The exhibition includes strong representation from Bundjalung artists and Aboriginal artists practicing in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. Kylie Caldwell is a Bundjalung artist based at Wollongbar whose image Mrs & Mr Watcher presents a picture of ancestors watching media obsessed people of today: ‘Mrs & Mr Watcher is a digital portrait of our ancestors watching us, watching others while we are watched… Screens are now our eyes to see the world through and how the world can see us… What would our ancestors say?’

In her work The Rainbow Experience, Butchulla artist Mia Boa looks at elements of K’gari’s (Fraser Island) complicated and dark history since colonisation, as well as the consequences of the displacement of the Butchulla people: ‘The location of this painting exists between myth and truth — it is my naive imagining of what it may look like for myself, a Butchulla woman, to return to the island.’ Dunghutti artist Gus Kelly’s work in coloured pencil Nobody Told Me There’d Be Days Like These tells the story of colonisation of Aboriginal land with four images providing a timeline.

Gus Kelly, Nobody Told Me There’d Be Days Like These…, 2021, coloured pencil on Velin Arches paper, 75 x 55cm. Courtesy the artist

This year’s judge, Djon Mundine OAM FAHA, says of the Koori Mail Indigenous Art Award: ‘Australia wide we need to heal our country by painting, performing, by making art. We are regaining our connection and healing.’

The winner of the $10,000 Koori Mail Art Indigenous Award will be awarded on Saturday 4 December 2021 at Lismore Regional Gallery in NSW. Additional awards to be presented on the day are the $2,500 Bundjalung Art Award open to Bundjalung artists and/or Indigenous artists working on Bundjalung country, the $2,500 Innovation Art Award open to Indigenous artists living in Bundjalung, Yaegl and Githabul country and the $500 Youth Art Award open to Indigenous artists nationally from 12 to 24 years of age.

The Koori Mail Indigenous Art Award 2021 finalists’ exhibition will be on display at Lismore Regional Gallery from 4 December 2021 to 30 January, 2022.

Finalists for The Koori Mail Indigenous Art Award 2021 are: Jacinta Annandale, Chenaya Bancroft-Davis, Michael Baragud, Billy Black, Mia Boe, Theresa Bolt, Moorina Bonini, Joy Burruna, Melinda Cain, Kylie Caldwell, Theo Clarke, Luke Close, Mark Cora, Jingalu Craig, Louise Daniels, Charmaine Davis, Margaret Djarrbalabal, Janette Duncan, Penny Evans, Suzy Evans, Peter Faulkner-Roberts, Jenny Fraser, Zoe Golding, Danielle Gorogo, Amala Groom, Hannah Kaitap, Aneika Kapeen, Gus Kelly, Becca King, Ethan Kotiau, Oral Laurie, Jahvis Loveday, Kent Morris, Amelia Murphy-Taylor, Edwinea Paulson, Kobi Philbin, Eli Pietens, Kyle Prieto, Brian Robinson, Cara Shields, Beverly Smith, Dulcie Stevens, Sophie Taylor, Amarina Toby, Margaret Torrens, Anthony Walker, Daniel Warrulukuma, Bradley Webb, and Jason Wing.

lismoreregionalgallery.org