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Congratulations to Gunybi Ganambarr, who has won the overall prize, the Telstra Art Award, in the 35th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA). Ganambarr, who is from the remote community of Gangan in East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, took out the top prize with a large etching on aluminium titled Buyku.

Ganambarr artist’s statement points out, “Artworks of this nature have multiple layers of metaphor and meaning which give lessons about the connections between an individual and specific pieces of country (both land and sea), as well as the connections between various clans but also explaining the forces that act upon and within the environment and the mechanics of a spirit’s path through existence. The knowledge referred to by this imagery deepens in complexity and secrecy as a person progresses through a life-long learning  process.”

This year the Telstra NATSIAA was judged by Kelly Gellatly, director of the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne; Glenn Iseger-Pilkington, independent curator and art consultant; and Judith Inkamala, artist and senior member of the Hermannsburg Potters. Art Guide Australia’s NATSIAA preview from the July/August print edition offers some insight into the judging process.

The NATSIAA prizes are non-acquisitive. Ganambarr was awarded $50,000 and the judges described his winning work as demonstrating an impressive command of material and technique as well as a deep understanding of ceremony and culture.

NATSIAA also awards $5,000 prizes in six other categories. Peter Mungkuri, from Indulkana, South Australia, won the Telstra General Painting Award with Ngura (Country); the Telstra Works on Paper Award went to Kathy Ngala Inkamala from Alice Springs, Northern Territory, for her watercolour Mount Gillen, Western MacDonnell Ranges; Napuwarri Marawili, from Yilpara, Northern Territory, won the Telstra Bark Painting Award with his work Baraltja Dugong Yathikpa; Wukun Wanambi, from Yirrkala, Northern Territory, who previously won the bark painting award in 1998, took out the Wandjuk Marika Memorial 3D Award with his sculpture Destiny; the Telstra Multimedia Award went to Patrina Liyadurrkitj Mununggurr, also from Yirrkala, for her film Dhunupa‘kum nhuna wanda (Straightening your mind); and Matthew Dhamuliya Gurruwiwi, from Warruwi, Northern Territory, won the Telstra Emerging Artist Award with his 3D work Banumbirr (Morning Star poles).

Marcus Schutenko, director of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT), where NATSIAA is held, said, “The quality of the artworks in this year’s awards are the strongest I have seen… I expect audiences will feel a significant sense of discovery when they come to the 35th Telstra NATSIAA.”

Works by all of the finalists are on show at MAGNT until 25 November.

The Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards
The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
11 August – 25 November

Art Guide Australia