Australia Council awards Indigenous excellence

Bart Willoughby, Tyrone Sheather, Hector Burton, Dave ArdenOutstanding achievement in Indigenous arts were celebrated at the Australia Council’s National Indigenous Arts Awards, when four exceptional Indigenous artists were presented at a ceremony on Tuesday 3 June at the Sydney Opera House. These prestigious national awards include the Red Ochre Award, two Fellowships and the Dreaming Award.

This year the Red Ochre, Australia’s most esteemed peer-assessed award for an Indigenous artist, will be presented to senior visual artist Hector Tjupuru Burton. Awarded since 1993, the $50,000 prize acknowledges an artists’ outstanding contribution and lifetime achievement to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts at a national and international level.

Renowned Melbourne musicians Bart Willoughby and Dave Arden will each receive Fellowships, which provides $45,000 a year for two years to create a major project.

The Dreaming Award provides $20,000 to a young artist aged 18-26 to create a major body of work through mentoring or partnerships. It will be awarded to interdisciplinary artist Tyrone Sheather.

Australia Council Chair Rupert Myer AM said the annual awards give the highest acknowledgement to the outstanding achievements of Australia’s Indigenous artists.

“The awards draw attention to the significant contribution Indigenous artists make to the artistic vibrancy and cultural life of Australia,” said Mr Myer. “They encourage us to experience, participate in and cherish the dynamic work that is created.”

Australia Council Board Director Lee-Ann Buckskin said Hector Tjupuru Burton was chosen as this year’s Red Ochre Award recipient for his remarkable work as a visual artist and cultural leader.

“Mr Burton, a senior Pitjantjatjara man, started painting on canvas in October 2003 after a Men’s Painting Room was established to encourage men to tell and paint their stories,” said Ms Buckskin.

“Since this life-changing event, Mr Burton has revived ceremonies and documented and recorded stories both north and south of Amata, including the area associated with Uluru. He paints the Creation Time story of the caterpillars, the Anumara, which tells a story about kinship groups.”

“Mr Burton’s art has been collected by major institutions, including the Art Gallery of NSW, the Art Gallery of South Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Ian Potter Museum of Art, and the University of Melbourne.”

Ms Buckskin said Bart Willoughby, founding member of No Fixed Address and a featured artist in the Black Arm Band, was the first Indigenous artist to record on the Melbourne Town Hall organ.

“For Bart’s two-year fellowship project he will stage a series of concerts, which will feature him playing the organ, and promote his album We Still Live On inspired by the instrument,” said Ms Buckskin.

“Dave Arden has worked with many Aboriginal artists, including Hard Time Band, Koori Youth Band, Mixed Relations and Bart Willoughby, and written and performed songs for numerous albums.”

“For his fellowship Dave will develop and perform original songs with accompanying stories and projected images about five generations of his family, called The Dave Arden Kokatha/Gunditjmara Songman and Storyteller Showcase.”

“Tyrone, our final winner, is a young Gumbaynggirr artist from northern NSW who works across several artforms, including photography, film, projection art, paint, textiles and dance.”

“Tyrone’s project will be GIIDANYBA – glowing, interactive humanoid sculptures, emitting sound and two-meters tall, which symbolise the knowledge keepers of the old world. Tyrone will be mentored by other artists as well as Aboriginal elders.”

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Image: Bart Willoughby, Tyrone Sheather, Hector Burton, Dave Arden – courtesy of the Australia Council