2020 NATSIAA Awards exhibition + announcement of the Winners!

The ‘Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards’ (NATSIAA) celebrate Aboriginal culture, knowledge and identity with the annual NATSIAA awards and exhibition, which brings the stories, artistic skill and creative imagination of emerging and established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from across Australia to the galleries of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT).

This year marks the NATSIAA’s 37th presentation and premieres 65 finalist artworks created in the last 12 months that have not previously been exhibited or on sale. There are seven prize categories with a major prize of $50,000 from a pool of $80,000. The winners, selected by judges Karen Mills, Stephen Williamson and Donna Nadjamerrek, were announced at the NATSIAA Awards ceremony, hosted by Brooke Boney at MAGNT. Watch the NATSIAA Awards announcements and hear from the winning artists via this link.

Ngarralja Tommy May, winner of the ‘Telstra Art Award’ 2020. Photograph: Damian Kelly

We congratulate senior artist Ngarralja Tommy May who has won the major ‘Telstra Art Award’ with his intricately detailed etching on metal work titled Wirrkanja (2020). Mr May is a Wangkajunga and Walmajarri man born in Yarrkurnja in the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia.

Expressing his delight and sharing insight about his winning artwork Mr May said, “This is about my Country. There is a clay pan, near to Kurtal. It’s also called Helena Springs, a well on the Canning Stock Route.”

“Thank you mob in Darwin for this business. Thank you. At last. I feel proud. I’ve been trying all my life, all the time second, fourth, last, sometimes nothing. But I got it now, today. My days, my time this year, I’m the winner. At last.”

In recognition of Mr May’s artistic achievements the judging panel remarked, “With an artistic career spanning more than three decades, Ngarralja Tommy May’s triumphant artwork symbolises the artist at the height of his creative powers. This work announces itself with exquisite beauty and power in the signature style Mr May has pioneered in recent years.”

Ngarralja Tommy May, Fitzroy Crossing, WA, Wirrkanja, 2020, etching on metal and enamel paint, 120 x 120cm. Winner of the ‘Telstra Art Award’ 2020. Photograph: Merinda Campbell. Courtesy the artist and Mangkaja Arts, Western Australia.

A round of applause also goes to the following finalist artists and their winning artworks. Marrnyula Munungurr, Munguymirri, winner of the ‘Telstra Bark Painting Award’, Cecilia (Wadjlula) Umbagai, Yoogu, winner of the ‘Telstra Emerging Art Award’ and Adrian Jangala Robertson, Yalpirakinu, winner of the ‘Telstra General Painting Award’. Siena Mayutu Wurmarri Stubbs, Shinkansen, winner of the ‘Telstra Multimedia Award’, Iluwanti Ken, Walawulu ngunytju kukaku ananyi (Mother eagles going hunting), winner of the ‘Works on Paper Award’ and Jenna Lee, HIStory Vessels, winner of the ‘Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award’.

Iluwanti Ken, Amata, SA, Walawulu ngunytju kukaku ananyi (Mother eagles going hunting), 2020, ink on paper, 153 x 250cm. Winner of the ‘Telstra Works on Paper Award’ 2020. Photograph: Merinda Campbell. Courtesy of the artist, Tjala Arts, South Australia and Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

Audiences will be inspired by the work of artists ranging from 18 to 95 years of age whose extraordinary creative vision and powerful storytelling ways articulate the profound connection that First Nations Peoples have with their culture, Country and knowledge. Traditional and contemporary artworks including paintings, video, sculpture, objects, vessels, works on paper, weavings, photography and multimedia works visually narrate and document important cultural stories with vibrant representations of people and place, nature, the land, the water and the sky, creation, family, tradition and spirit, histories, truths and tensions past and present.

In a first for the NATSIAA’s, and in response to the challenges of the current crisis, the exhibition can also be explored in a virtual gallery space designed to provide audiences with a 360° navigation experience. The super easy to navigate interactive virtual gallery makes a positive turn towards greater exposure for the artists and a more accessible exhibition platform for audiences across Australia and internationally.

“One of the most exciting things about developing the online exhibition this year was thinking about how we might be able to do it for other exhibitions and continue to make shows more accessible,” says Clare Armitage, Assistant Curator Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

Adrian Jangala Robertson, Alice Springs, NT, Yalpirakinu, 2020, acrylic paint on canvas, 42 x 122cm. Winner of the ‘Telstra General Painting Award’. Photograph: Merinda Campbell. Courtesy the artist and Bindi Mwerre Anthurre Artists, Northern Territory and Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

To explore this beautiful and compelling selection of Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander artworks by the 2020 NATSIAA finalists and winners, in the virtual gallery click here. And if you happen to be in Darwin between August 8, 2020 and January 31, 2020, be sure to visit MAGNT to see the magnificent NATSIAA’s in person. Don’t forget to cast your vote for your favourite artwork and artist in the Telstra People’s Choice Award.