proppaNOW Win The Jane Lombard Prize For Art and Social Justice

Aboriginal artist collective proppaNOW have been awarded the 2022-2024 Jane Lombard Prize for Art and Social Justice which will see them travel to New York next year to continue their individual and shared artistic practices which the judges commended as ‘models for political empowerment throughout the world.’

The group will also be honoured with $25,000 in prize-money and an artwork from Yoko Ono.

Our congratulations go to the current proppaNOW artists Vernon Ah Kee, Tony Albert, Richard Bell, Jennifer Herd, Gordon Hookey, and Megan Cope! Over the years the collective has also included Fiona Foley, Bianca Beetson, Andrea Fisher and Laurie Nilsen (1953-2020).

Image: proppaNOW, L-R: Tony Albert, Jennifer Herd, Gordon Hookey, Megan Cope, Richard Bell, Vernon Ah Kee. Albert noted ‘The Emu sculpture pictured in front of me represents the late, great Laurie Nilsen. An integral part of the proppaNOW team.’ Photo: Rhett Hammerton.

Judges applauded the group saying it ‘has broken with expectations of what is proper (‘proppa’) in Aboriginal art; created a new sovereign space for First Nations artists internationally outside colonial stereotypes, desires for authenticity, and capitalist capitulations; and opened new political imaginaries.’

This year’s theme for the award was ‘Correction*’ to seek out creative voices who pose questions such as ‘Who is asked to correct and who resists and refuses correction or accountability? How is correction internalized, and is it ever enough? Can it get us closer to truth, to liberation?’ says the the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School, the university in New York who host the prize.

With communication, discussion and learning at the heart of this award, while in the United States, proppaNOW will undertake a short-term residency, their work will be integrated into classes, an exhibition will be on view in 2023 and an online and print publication will come to be.

We encourage you to watch the video below where the artists explain why they formed proppaNOW and what it means.

The group formed in 2003 to communicate the art, experience and politics of urban-based Indigenous artists. They say they ‘present a unique and controversial perspective of black Australia which is sometimes confronting and always thought provoking.’

In 2010 then Senior Research Fellow and Senior Curator at the National Museum of Australia Margo Neale wrote about the collective for Artlink magazine and explained they are ‘Acting as visual manifestos, their exhibitions and works become both political and cultural statements in the vein of protest art. They are also Dreamings for a new order.’ Neale explained ‘At the root is the issue of race discrimination presented through the lens of urban Aboriginal artists whose communities have borne the brunt of colonisation, displacement from ancestral lands and marginalisation by the dominant colonial culture. Their work forms a narrative which underlines the cultural alienation and displacement of Aboriginal people since invasion.’

On the launch of the group’s exhibition ‘OCCURRENT AFFAIR’ at the UQ Art Museum in 2021 which featured work by the group and Nilsen, Senior Curator Peta Rake said ‘proppaNOW continues to be one of Australia’s leading cultural agitators, exploring the politics of Aboriginal art and culture, and provoking, subverting and re-thinking what it means to be a ‘contemporary urban Aboriginal artist’ in Australia, with its ongoing settler-colonial legacies.’