Artists celebrated at 6th annual National Indigenous Arts Awards

Art Press Release from Australia. Published by anonymous on Monday 27 May 2013.

The Australia Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board is proud to present the $50,000 Red Ochre Award, Australia’s highest peer-assessed award for an Indigenous artist; to actor, dancer, choreographer and painter David Gulpilil, OAM.

Presented since 1993, the Red Ochre Award acknowledges the outstanding contribution of an artist to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts at the national and international levels. It is presented today at the 6th National Indigenous Arts Awards, held at the Sydney Opera House.

Also presented is the $20,000 Dreaming Award, for a young and emerging Indigenous artist, awarded to Rhonda Dick, a photographer from South Australia; and Two fellowships of $45,000 per year over two years to visual artist, Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello; and writer, activist and musician Richard Frankland.

“The Australia Council’s National Indigenous Arts Awards highlight the outstanding achievements o Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists” says Rupert Myer, AM, Chair of the Australia Council. “They celebrate the continuity and dynamism of contemporary Indigenous cultures in Australia.”

“These awards and fellowships are a significant recognition of the unique and important work of each of the recipients,” says Lee-Ann Buckskin, Chair of the Australia Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board.

“The Red Ochre Award for David Gulpilil is wonderful acknowledgement from his peers of David’s continual efforts to bring the experiences and wishes of his people to national and international attention,” says Lee-Ann. “He is unquestionably one of the most respected Australian actors on the international film stage, and a major contributor to the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders”.

David Gulpilil was first cast in the 1971 film Walkabout because of his extraordinary talents as a dancer. He was just 15 and had never acted before. Since then he has appeared in films that have been milestones in Australian cinema, and which have helped define Australian culture.

These include Storm Boy, Mad Dog Morgan, The Last Wave, Crocodile Dundee, Two Hands, Rabbit Proof Fence, The Tracker, Ten Canoes and Australia. He has also acted in a wealth of television roles. Mr Myer said Tony Grybowski’s appointment comes after an extensive search.

Director Rolf de Heer says David’s performance in Walkabout, “was so strong, so imbued with a new type of graceful naturalism, that it redefined perceptions of Aboriginality in the field of acting for the screen.”

His performance in The Tracker is his most critically acclaimed role to date, receiving numerous awards in 2002 including Best Actor at The Australian Film Institute Awards, the Inside Film Awards, and the Film Critics Circle Awards.

David’s latest completed film, Satellite Boy, directed by Aboriginal director Catriona McKenzie, is set in Western Australia and will open in Australian cinemas on June 20.

“Beyond his work on screen, David’s contribution to our people is astounding,” says Lee-Ann. “He has been, and continues to be, an inspiration to many people, opening doorways and creating career pathways where there were previously none.”

With the support of his family and community David has a master plan to create economic development in Arnhem Land to generate jobs, social benefits and a new dimension for Australian tourism and the arts. David is already widely recognised as being a major influence on the growing number of Indigenous professionals across Australia.

Twenty-six year old Rhonda Unurupa Dick is the recipient of the 2013 Dreaming Award, which is given to an artist aged between 18 and 26 to support them to create a major body of work, while being mentored in a chosen discipline by another established professional artist or by an arts institution nominated by the artist.

Rhonda is Pitjantjatjara and a photographic artist from the community of Amata in South Australia. Soon after starting a job as an arts worker at the local Tjala Arts Centre in January 2012 she discovered her love of photography and devoted herself to its practice.

“Rhonda’s work is about her family, her community and her country,” says Lee-Ann. “It attracted attention as soon as she started to show it, receiving the inaugural Desart Annual Aboriginal Arts Worker Prize 2012, for her series entitled My great grandmothers’ country.”

“It’s a joy to support this emerging artist who will undoubtedly create something wonderful from the opportunity, “says Lee-Ann.

The Dreaming Award comes with a prize of $20,000 which Rhonda will use to study photography at the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney under the mentorship of photographer Nici Cumpston. After spending a year developing new work and her practice Rhonda’s works will be displayed at a solo exhibition at the Outstation Gallery in Darwin and at Gallery Gabriella Pizzi in Melbourne.

Fellowship recipient Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello is a Southern Arrernte woman. She is an awardwinning poet, writer, and visual artist as well as an academic, teacher and community leader. In 2008 the Adelaide-born artist, now resident in Canberra, worked with glass for the first time and was immediately hooked on the medium.

Since then she has become known for her extraordinary evocations of traditional weaving in hot blown glass. Jennifer’s Fellowship will allow her to undertake an extensive program of glass blowing, kiln work and coldworking to create a significant body of 70-90 pieces based on traditional Aboriginal woven eel traps, fish traps, baskets, fish scoops and dillibags.

Richard Frankland plans an ambitious musical based on Indigenous Australian history, to be developed with the assistance of his two-year Fellowship.

Richard has written, directed and produced more than 50 film and video projects. As a musician he formed The Charcoal Club and once supported US star Prince. His work as a field officer with the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody inspired his award-winning play Conversations with the Dead.

A Gunditjmara man raised in south-western Victoria, Richard Frankland has long been recognised for his passionate advocacy of social justice in writing, film and music. Now he plans to combine the three art forms to tell the story of ‘Indigenous Australians from invasion to today’ in a stage musical to be offered to theatre companies in 2014.