“A monumental sculpture”: Margaret Rarru Garrawurra wins the 2022 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards


Congratulations to Margaret Rarru Garrawurra for winning the 2022 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA). Rarru Garrawurra is a Senior Yolŋu artist from Laŋarra, Arnhem Land and her award-winning work Dhomala (pandanus sail), 2022, powerfully references her cultural identity and the long-lasting relationships between Yolŋu people and the people of Indonesia.

“I was with my sisters when I found out about winning. We were very happy. It makes us proud,” says Rarru Garrawurra. Of her work, Rarru Garrawurra explains that “This is a Makassan dhomala (sail). Yolŋu people were watching Makassan people weaving their dhomala over time . . . then they started to make them.”

The process of creating the work Dhomala (pandanus sail), 2022, involved an elaborate concentration of weaving collected materials alongside developing mixtures of natural dyes to achieve deep red, black, orange, and yellow. Rarru Garrawurra recalls observing her father creating the Makassan dhomala: “He was making them, and I was watching. I thought about how he made them . . . and I started remembering.”

Rarru Garrawurra receives a $100,000 prize for her work. The NATSIAA judges, Dr Joanna Barrkman and Myles Russell-Cook say that she “has created a monumental sculpture that is both majestic in scale and exacting in technical virtuosity”. They explain that this is “a powerful work which reminds us that Yolŋu long been active and intrepid explorers, participating in international trade since well before the arrival of the Europeans.”

NATSIAA also awards a $15,000 prize in six other categories.

Betty Muffler, from Indulkana, South Australia, won the Telstra General Painting Award with Ngangkari Ngura (Healing Country), 2021.

The Telstra Bark Painting Award was posthumously awarded to the late Ms D. Yunupiŋu, from Yirrkala, Northern Territory for her work Yunupiŋu – The Rock, 2021.

The Telstra Works on Paper Award went to Gary Lee from Garramilla, Darwin, Northern Territory for his work Nagi, 2022.

The Wandjuk Marika Memorial 3D Award went to Bonnie Burangarra and Freda Ali Wayartja from Yilan, Northern Territory, for their work An-gujechiya, 2021.

The Telstra Multimedia Award was won by Jimmy John Thaiday from Erub, Torres Strait, Queensland, for his work Beyond the lines, 2022.

And finally, the Telstra Emerging Artist Award went to Louise Malarvie, from Kununurra, Western Australia, for her work Pamarr Yara, 2022.

NATSIAA is Australia’s most prestigious Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art award. Works by all 63 finalists are now on display at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, alongside Darwin Festival which runs from 4—27 August.

Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards
The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
6 August 2022—15 January 2023

News Words by Art Guide Australia