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35th Telstra NATSIAA winners announced

A renowned Territory artist and veteran finalist of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) has won the top prize at this year’s competition.


Gunybi Ganambarr has been a finalist in the prestigious awards eight times over the years, and his large-scale etching, ‘Buyku’, was selected as the overall winner for the 35th Telstra NATSIAA.

“(It’s) exciting,” he says.

“It makes me proud and makes my family and kids happy.”

The unconventional artist’s three-by-three metre etching on aluminium board beat more than 300 entries and 66 finalists in this year’s Awards.

Ganambarr says the work ‘Buyku' represents the meeting place along the river where fish get trapped during the Wet season between his community Gangan, in East Arnhem Land, and the ocean.

‘Buyku’ speaks to the coming together of the Dhalwangu clan for fish trap ceremonies and how these ceremonies unite Yolŋu. 

The directions and flow of the forms in ‘Buyku’, although initially similar in design, are said to represent multiple grandfathers (Mari) from the one Dhalwangu clan. 

The arms come together to form a Buyku (fish trap) as seen in the ceremony performed by Yirritja ancestors. 

Ganambarr is known for his innovation in telling traditional Yolngu stories in contemporary ways using found materials – often unwanted legacies of the bauxite mine in Nhulunbuy.

“I found some pieces in my homelands, I found some at the tip, others on the road, some in the bushes,” he explains.

Earlier this year another etching of the same title was among eight Aboriginal artworks gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, indicative of the growing interest in the sector in the US and the calibre of Ganambarr's work.

Ganambarr was awarded the $50,000 Telstra Art Award prize at a public ceremony on the lawns of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, alongside the six category winners across multiple disciplines.

NATSIAA | Until Sun 11 Nov | Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory | See the event listing

2018 NATSIAA Category Winners


Telstra General Painting Award

Peter Mungkuri, Indulkana, SA
Ngura (Country)

Peter’s paintings are loaded with an energy and movement. His powerful paintings quietly shimmer with romanticism and a reverence for country. The repetitious depiction of sweeping paths link loosely together, connecting a myriad of softly dotted rings, evoking a landscape enigmatic with hidden water holes. Tender yet resolutely constructed trees spring up between the interlocking rolls of a mountain range, hinting towards the corrugations of a dynamic sand swept desert.

Mungkuri said: “This is my drawing about my country. This land is my home, it’s where it all started. I’ve got good knowledge of horses, stockmen, and the country. These things, everything, is my memory – my knowledge. I like painting my country, I like to paint the memories of my country.”


Telstra Works on Paper Award

Kathy Inkamala, Mparntwe (Alice Springs), NT
Mount Gillen, Western MacDonnell Ranges

Kathy Ngala Inkamala began painting in the Hermannsburg School Watercolour tradition of her Western Aranda family in 2015. Her distinct style is characterised by a tightly illustrative approach to mark-making, repetitive line work and a highly saturated use of colour. Her insightful and considered artworks are a strong chapter in the 90 year old tradition of watercolour painting that began in Ntaria in the mid-1930’s by Kathy’s great-uncle, Albert Namatjira.


Telstra Bark Painting Award

Napuwarri Marawili, Yilpara, NT
Baraltja Dugong Yathikpa

Napuwarri honed his artistic practice under the tutelage of his father, the great artist Bakulaŋay Marawili. He is an adaptable man with a versatile range of artistic skills. As well as dancing and singing in ceremony he sculpts and makes prints. His winning work is an evocative piece representing an ancestral journey, in which a hunting party took to the sea in pursuit of Dugong. The hunters were lured close to a dangerous rock where the dugong feed on Gamata, a sea grass that is a manifestation of flames on the sea bed. Wavy ribbons of sea grass sway in the sunlit water as depicted in the work. These events are commemorated today through Yirritja ceremony.


Wandjuk Marika Memorial 3D Award 

Wukun Wanambi, Yirrkala, NT

Wukun is a previous NATSIAA Award winner, having been awarded the 1998 Bark Painting award and a Highly Commended in the 3D category for his sculptured larrakitj in 2003.

His 2018 winning entry evokes the turbulent waters of Gurkawuy River conflicting and clashing with the incoming tidal waters near Trial Bay. The fish depicted jump the ‘trap’ created by the submerged rocks in the same way that the soul slips its earthly bonds. These fish travel from river to river, ocean to ocean, looking for their destiny. The water is called Gudutja and they are looking for their destiny, just like you and I tracing our family tree on a computer, looking for our great, great grandfathers and grandmothers.


Telstra Multimedia Award

Patrina Liyadurrkitj Mununggurr, Yirrkala, NT
Dhunupa‘kum nhuna wanda (Straightening your mind)

This film shows the artist painting her forehead with gapan (white clay), which Yolŋu use on their face and body for ceremonial purposes. Patrina has described the significance of this: “My people, the Djapu people, sing the cloud song. This songline tells Yolŋu to paint themselves with gapaṉ. The old people sing this ancient songline to ask Yolŋu to paint themselves with gapaṉ before they start performing buŋgul (ceremonial dance).”



Telstra Emerging Artist Award

Matthew Dhamuliya Gurruwiwi, Warruwi, NT
Banumbirr (Morning Star poles)

Banumbirr, or Morning Star Poles, are ceremonial poles belonging to the Galpu clan of Arnhem Land. Made using soft local wood, natural earth pigments, arrangements of feathers, bush wax and handmade bush string, they are traditionally used for mortuary (funeral) ceremonies. Matthew says of his work "I was born and raised to be an artist and I see it as my job to carry on the traditional art making for the Galpu clan. Making Banumbirr has been passed on to me and it is important I keep doing it and keep my culture strong."


Image credits from top

Thumbnail and header image: 2018 35TH Telstra NATSIAA winners and judges. Image by Fiona Morrison.

1. Telstra Art Award Gunybi Ganambarr, Gan Gan, NT Buyku. Image by Fiona Morrison.

2. Telstra General Painting Award Peter Mungkuri, Indulkana, SA Ngura (Country).  Image by Fiona Morrison.

3. Telstra Works on Paper Award Kathy Inkamala, Mparntwe (Alice Springs), NT Mount Gillen, Western MacDonnell Ranges. Image by Fiona Morrison.

4. Telstra Bark Painting Award Napuwarri Marawili, Yilpara, NT Baraltja Dugong Yathikpa 2. Image by Fiona Morrison.

5. Wandjuk Marika Memorial 3D Award (sponsored by Telstra) Wukun Wanambi, Yirrkala, NT Destiny. Image by Fiona Morrison.

6. Telstra Multimedia Award Patrina Liyadurrkitj Mununggurr, Yirrkala, NT Dhunupa‘kum nhuna wanda (Straightening your mind). Image by Fiona Morrison.

7. Telstra Emerging Artist Award Matthew Dhamuliya Gurruwiwi, Warruwi, NT Banumbirr (Morning Star poles). Image by Fiona Morrison.


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