The Artists of 2022: proppaNOW
By HG Masters
In 2003 Meanjin/Brisbane artists Vernon Ah Kee, Jennifer Herd, and Richard Bell, laid the groundwork for the collective proppaNOW, whose aim was to support urban Indigenous Australian artists and challenge cultural expectations about “Aboriginal art.” In the years since, their communal activities, advocacy, and collaborative exhibitions have created opportunities for Black Australians to voice their experiences. The group’s members also include Tony Albert, Gordon Hookey, Megan Cope, and the late Laurie Nilsen (1953–2020), represented by his daughter, Lily Eather. In October, proppaNOW were awarded the 2022–2024 Jane Lombard Prize for Art and Social Justice from the New School’s Vera List Center for Art and Politics in New York. The jury recognized them for their projects that: “[have] broken with expectations of what is proper (‘proppa’) in Aboriginal art; created a new sovereign space for First Nations artists internationally outside colonial stereotypes, desires for authenticity, and capitalist capitulations.” The recognition came following their touring reunion exhibition, “Occurrent Affair,” which debuted in February 2021 at the University of Queensland Art Museum.