NATSIAA winners announced amid Darwin Festival arts events

The winners of the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards have been announced, with Keith Wikmunea, a Thu’ Apalech artist from Aurukun in Queensland, taking out this year’s top prize in Australia’s most prestigious Indigenous art awards.

Wikmunea won the $100,000 Telstra Art Award for his sculpture Ku’, Theewith & Kalampang: The White Cockatoo, Galah and the wandering Dog. “I was with my family when my manager called and gave me the good news about winning,” says Wikmunea. “We all got really excited. It means a lot to me and my family to be sharing our culture with the rest of Australia.”

As Wikmunea explains of his winning work, “The colours on this tree are specific to my clan, the Thu’ Apalech people. In Wik-Mungkan, my first spoken language, we call this tree yuk thanchal. This tree is also known as milkywood [sic] in English and is the same tree that my ancestors have been using since the beginning of time to create their artefacts. My Puulwuy [father’s totem] and my Kathwuy [mother’s totem] are represented here too.”

Jimmy John Thaiday, still from Just Beneath the Surface. Image courtesy Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory / Mark Sherwood.

The NATSIAAs span a variety of award categories, with further award winners including:

  • – Julie Nangala Robertson, whose painting Mina Mina won the Telstra General Painting Award
  • – Owen Yalandja, who won the Telstra Bark Painting Award for his piece Ngalkodjek Yawkyawk
  • – Brenda L Croft, who won the Telstra Work on Paper Award for an original wet plate collodion process tin-type photograph, digitally scanned and printed on a cotton rag, titled blood/memory: Brenda & Christopher II (Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra; Mara/Nandi/Njarrindjerri/Ritharrngu; Anglo-Australian/Chinese/German/Irish/Scottish)
  • – Anne Nginyangka Thompson, who won the Wandjuk Marika Memorial 3D Award for her ceramic piece Anangu History
  • – Jimmy John Thaiday, who won the Telstra Multimedia Award for his video work Just Beneath the Surface
  • – Dhalmula Burarrwaŋa, who won the Telstra Emerging Artist Award with her piece wanha, dhika, nhawi?

Each category winner receives a $15,000 prize, and all finalist and award-winning works are now on show at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

The NATSIAAs coincide with the much-anticipated Darwin Festival, a winter arts festival with an extensive array of events covering music, theatre, comedy, dance, and visual arts. This includes the SALON Art Projects, a set of exhibitions featuring ethically sourced Indigenous art, and the SALON des Refusés, which presents artwork not selected for the NATSIAAs.

Other notable visual art events are the Blak Power survey exhibition at the Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, and Darwin Visual Arts which features five unique Darwin artists across five galleries.

“Darwin Festival 2023 is an invitation to immerse in a unique, tropical winter play-space, rich with magical moments and deep Territory narratives,” says Darwin Festival artistic director Kate Fell. “Once more, the festival offers a spectrum of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture, thrilling performances, and intriguing discussions, taking place across the cityscape of Darwin, and transforming familiar places into sites of discovery.”

2023 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
On now—early 2024

Darwin Festival
Various locations
On  now—27 August


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