Indigenous Art Resources

22nd Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award - 2005

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Published Sunday, August 21, 2005

Australia's premiere indigenous art prize is nothing if not controversial. Is this year’s winning work 'a pile of vaguely car-shaped grass*', or 'wonderfully witty, well-crafted and relevant'?

Tjanpi Grass Toyota by Blackstone Tjanpi Weavers

The winner of the Telstra First Prize in the 22nd Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award is Tjanpi Grass Toyota, a 4 x 2 metre work by the Blackstone Tjanpi Weavers from Blackstone, a remote Western Australian community about 450 kilometres south-west of Alice Springs near the Northern Territory border.

Judges Doug Hall, Director of the Queensland Art Gallery and visual artist Destiny Deacon remarked that ‘Tjanpi Grass Toyota…is a wonderfully witty, well-crafted and relevant work. In one sense it takes us to the heart of community life and its tradition of weaving from grass that belongs to the women’s country. On the other hand, this work not only recognises but also celebrates the four-wheel drive as central to desert living for Aboriginal people’. The full-size grass Toyota is made from raffia, grass, jute string, chicken wire and steel.

The idea for the Tjanpi Toyota grew out of a previous project, The Big Basket, a monumental work made by the Blackstone women in 2000 that was commissioned by the World Expo in Hanover Germany. Artist Kantjupayi Benson pioneered the weaving movement from the start, experimenting with humour and ingenuity to make everything from camp crockery to human figures. The idea of a grass tjanpi Toyota seemed an obvious next step to her. While Kantjupayi sat on a chair leaning on her long walking stick, she oversaw the younger women drawing the shape of the vehicle with chalk on the concrete floor of the Blackstone hall.

Minyerri, a wiry grass found in the sandy country approximately 20kms from Blackstone, was fashioned into coils and attached with jute twine and wire to welded steel framed panels covered with chicken mesh. All in all there were twenty artists involved over an intensive month-long period. Kantjupayi Benson comments: ‘Minyma Blackstonelanguru yayinyintju, mulapa. Blackstone minyma winners. These women from Blackstone are truly ingenious, really they are. The Blackstone women are the best.’

Details of other prize winners in the competition are :
The Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award (sponsored by Telstra) was awarded to Naminapu Maymuru–White of Yirrkala NT, for Milngiyawuy, a hollow log decorated with natural pigments suggesting a Dreaming related to the souls that formed the stars to become the Milky Way.

Milngiyawuy by Naminapu Maymuru–White

The Telstra Work on Paper Award was won by Gayle Maddigan of South Mandurang in Victoria for her charcoal and ash on paper Remembered Ritual.

Remembered Ritualby Gayle Maddigan

Evelyn Pultara from Wilora Community in NT was awarded the Telstra General Painting Award for Yam Dreaming, described by the judges as ‘a striking, vibrant and luminous work that shimmers in its representation of a dreaming of significance to the Wilora community’.

Yam Dreaming by Evelyn Pultara

Telstra Bark Painting Award was won by Yirrkala artist Banduk Marika, assisted by Boliny Wanambi and Ralwurrandji Wanambi. Yalangbara, featuring natural pigments on bark, was described as an ‘astonishingly simple, elegant and beautifully painted work, one of unpretentious authority that tells its story through repeated use of her clan design’.

Yalangbara by Banduk Marika

The Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award is an important showcase for both established and emerging artists and has come to be regarded as the premier national event in the Australian I ndigenous art calendar. The Award attracts a range of indigenous artists from all parts of the country and up to 150 works are selected each year from up to 500 entries.

* Nicholas Rothwell, The big picture, little dreaming, The Australian, August 15, 2005.

By Helen Bongiorno, August 2005

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