National Indigenous Arts Awards Announced

NIAA Lynette Narkle, Lisa Maza, Ancestress Teila Watson, Dr Ken Thaday Senior - photo by Maja BaskaThe Australia Council for the Arts has celebrated four extraordinary artists who were honoured at the 10th National Indigenous Arts Awards (NIAA) at the Sydney Opera House on Saturday evening. The Awards – the Red Ochre Award, the Dreaming Award and a Fellowship recognise artistic excellence and cultural leadership of First Nations artists.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and the 25th Anniversary of the Mabo decision, this year, two Red Ochre Awards will be presented – to one female and one male artist – to celebrate their extraordinary lifetime achievements and contribution to the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts nationally and internationally.

Their awards laud these two individuals, not just for their distinguished careers in the arts, but for their lifelong endeavours to honour the importance of Indigenous arts and culture. They join a remarkable group of artists who have received this award since its establishment in 1993. The 2017 National Indigenous Arts Awards recipients are:

  • Dr Ken Thaiday Snr and Lynette Narkle each received a Red Ochre Award – to recognise their lifetime achievement of outstanding contributions to the arts;
  • Teila Watson received the Dreaming Award – which recognises an inspirational young artist and provides the opportunity for them to be mentored and create a major body of work; and
  • Lisa Maza was awarded the Fellowship – providing two years of financial support to undertake a major creative project.

Australia Council Chair Rupert Myer AO paid tribute to the Red Ochre Award recipients, two eminent Indigenous artists recognised by their peers for their extraordinary commitment and dedication, not only to their art, but also as mentors for young and emerging Indigenous artists.

“I congratulate Ken and Lynette for the significant contribution they have made to the vibrancy of Australian arts,” said Mr Myer. “Their artistic practice, storytelling and cultural knowledge sharing plays a vital role in maintaining the strength and visibility of our First Nations cultures, and is central to our national identity,” Mr Myer said.

“The NIAA awards also recognise the achievements of the younger Indigenous artists and invest in developing their practice. I look forward with great anticipation to the work that Lisa and Teila will produce through the Fellowship and Dreaming Award.”

“The Council has long had a commitment to encouraging public-private partnerships in the arts and I am delighted to announce that the inaugural second Red Ochre has been generously supported by Louise Herron AM and Helen Lynch AM. We are deeply appreciative of their commitment to promoting female leadership in the arts and celebrating excellence in Indigenous arts.”

“Helen Lynch AM and I are delighted to join the Australia Council in supporting Lynette Narkle as the female recipient of the Red Ochre Award for lifetime achievement in the arts,” said Louise Herron AM. “It is important that we celebrate artists who have led by example and created great work, and wonderful to see the country increasingly acknowledging the contribution and importance of First Nations culture to Australia as a whole.”

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Image: Lynette Narkle, Lisa Maza, Ancestress / Teila Watson, and Dr Ken Thaiday Snr – photo by Maja Baska