‘I am rapt’ – Destiny Deacon awarded the inaugural Yalingwa Fellowship

Yalingwa Fellowship is a $60,000 award for mid-career and senior First Nations artists currently living and working in South East Australia in recognition of their contribution to contemporary art practice and Indigenous cultural and creative expression.

‘Through Yalingwa and a range of other initiatives we are backing Victoria’s creative talent and placing First Peoples art and creativity at the heart of our creative state,’ said Martin Foley, Minister for Creative Industries. ‘We are thrilled to award this ground-breaking fellowship to a ground-breaking artist – Destiny Deacon – and look forward to seeing what she does next.’

Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser, Something in the air, 2016; Brook Andrew, The weight of history, the mark of time (sphere), 2015; installation view, Sovereignty, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. Photograph: Andrew Curtis

The Fellowship is part of the multifaceted Yalingwa visual arts program, a Victorian Government initiative delivered in partnership with the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) and TarraWarra Museum of Art. It also includes three new curatorial positions and three major exhibitions alternating between ACCA and TarraWarra, focused on new commissions by contemporary Indigenous artists.

Destiny Deacon is of the Ku Ku people of Cape York and Erub/Mer peoples of the Torres Strait Islands. Throughout her thirty-year career as a photographer, broadcaster and teacher she played an influential role in contemporary Indigenous art, culture, language and identity. ‘I am rapt to be awarded the inaugural Yalingwa Visual Artist Fellowship!, said the artist. ‘I look forward to the freedom this wonderful opportunity gives me to create artworks and words. I wish my mother, who escaped to Melbourne in 1959 believing it to be the least racist place in Australia, was alive to share this honour.’

‘I am rapt to be awarded the inaugural Yalingwa Visual Artist Fellowship! I look forward to the freedom this wonderful opportunity gives me to create artworks and words.’ – Destiny Deacon

The Yalingwa Fellowship was decided by an Advisory Group that includes members of the Aboriginal arts and wider community, following an open-call for submissions. In awarding Destiny the Fellowship, the Group noted that the artist’s contributions to Australian art: ‘Destiny is a true trailblazer, inventing the term ‘Blak’ and ‘Blakness’ in the 1990s, terms now used widely within the Indigenous and wider communities to describe contemporary Aboriginal identity and experience.

‘The decision to award the Yalingwa prize to Destiny Deacon recognises the vital role this important artist has played in changing the way the broader community understands and engages with Indigenous art. We also acknowledge the immense contribution Destiny has made to the Victorian Aboriginal community, through her art, media, and community activism. She is most deserving of the recognition and the financial support this award will bring.’

Max Delany, ACCA Artistic Director and CEO, said: ‘Deacon is a most fitting inaugural recipient of this prestigious and important new award. Her artistic practice is marked by a wicked yet comedic disposition, and her low-fi approach to art making, where friends, family and members of Melbourne’s Indigenous community appear in mischievous narratives, has amplified and deconstructed stereotypes of Indigenous identity and history. The award will allow Destiny to enter into a period of research, the outcome of which may include new work, exhibitions and a book.’