Winners Announced For Australia's National Indigenous Arts Awards 2018
By Pamela Wong
The winners of the 2018 National Indigenous Arts Awards (NIAA) were announced at a ceremony at the Sydney Opera House on May 27. Organized by the Australia Council for the Arts, the awards—comprising the Red Ochre Award for lifetime achievement of a male and female living artist, the Dreaming Award for emerging artists, and the Australia Council Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Fellowship, supporting the career development of an established artist or arts professional—are presented to First Nations Australians every year.
Bark painter and sculptor John Mawurndjul, from Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, and painter and weaver Mavis Ngallametta, from the Aurukun community in Queensland, received Red Ochre Awards for their outstanding accomplishments in the arts, including artistic leadership and contribution to their communities. Mawurndjul participated in the Biennale of Sydney in 2000 and 2018, and was presented with an Order of Australia—the highest accolade for achievement and service in the commonwealth country—in 2010 by Queen Elizabeth II. Ngallametta is known for her large-scale paintings inspired by her homeland, as well as her innovative use of ghost nets in her woven baskets to raise awareness of the damage caused by discarded fishing nets to marine life. She won the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award for painting in 2013.
This year’s recipient of the Dreaming Award is Thomas ES Kelly, an emerging young dancer and choreographer from New South Wales. He serves as the founding artistic director of Karul Projects, a performing arts company dedicated to preserving Aboriginal heritage and fostering reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
Hetti Perkins, a curator, writer, adviser, and television presenter, received the Fellowship. She was the senior curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales for 13 years, before resigning in 2011 to work on promoting indigenous art beyond mainstream institutions.
The winners were selected by the Australia Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Strategy Panel. The chair of the panel, Wesley Enoch, commented on the winners: “The 2018 recipients demonstrate such breadth and richness in their practices, and they represent a profound sense of cultural strength across the generations.”
The annual NIAA is timed to coincide with the anniversary of the 1992 Mabo ruling by Australia’s High Court, recognizing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional owners of their land.
Pamela Wong is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.
To read more of ArtAsiaPacific’s articles, visit our Digital Library.