King & Wood Mallesons First Nations Art Award 2023 Award Finalists
King & Wood Mallesons is thrilled to announce that finalist works have been selected for the King & Wood Mallesons First Nations Art Award 2023. We thank everyone who took the time to enter the award which showcases and celebrates the outstanding contribution made to Australian culture by First Nations artists in remote, regional and urban areas throughout Australia.
This painting depicts designs associated with the site of Papunya, west of Alice Springs. This site is related to a ngari, or honey ant, dreaming.
The fine lines in this work represent both the tracks of the honey ants and the sandhills which surround the site. This site forms part of the Tingari song cycle.
Since events associated with the Tingari Cycle are of a secret nature no further detail was given. Generally, the Tingari are a group of ancestral beings of the Dreaming who travelled over vast stretches of the country, performing rituals, and creating and shaping particular sites.
My Country is behind Ninyilki, this is where I was born on a saltpan under the ti-trees. You can see Sweers Island from here.
My Father, King Alfred, was dragging grass across the sea with his other wives, to catch fish. He didn't know I was coming. It was my Aunty who ran to let my Father know.
My Grandmother delivered me, she was the one that cut my cord with a special shell. They thought I would be a boy because I was so big in my Mother's tummy.
My Father put me in a coolamon and carried me all the way to Oak Tree Point, a better place to camp. It was a long way to walk all that way carrying me.
Bob is distinguished by the freedom of his composition and his stylistic application of colour, which happens at a frenetic and decisive pace. He carves up the canvas, creating wild shapes in an evocative and highly contemporary reinterpretation of country.
Bob enjoys telling the stories from his father’s country around Patjarr and his mother's country Kulkurta. This work is about two snakes and two men who travelled north to Karrkurinkitja. As the party travelled, some strangers came up behind them and the snakes fled. Then Kurningka (boss of the Tingari men) went looking. The clouds were coming towards them. The snakes were travelling fast and the water was rising, and the lady snake went in the ant's hole but the other snake was left outside. Kurningka was saying, ‘water is coming closer’ but the other snake was too big for the hole. The Kurningka cut the snake and a lot of fat came out.
The free brush strokes and loose lines evident in this canvas dance around each other displaying the distinctive and compelling liveliness of his work.
Wapi Arai is a short phrase from Kala Lagaw Ya, Western Island (Zenadth Kes) language, which means to obtain or get fish.
I still recall many of the fishing expeditions I had with my late athe (Ali Drummond) across the waters, reefs, mangroves, sea grass beds and sand banks near my home of Waiben. An average day would begin before the crack of dawn with the first task of the day – loading the dinghy with all the necessary supplies, especially Scotch Finger and Sao biscuits and the occasional tin of smoked oysters. All this boating paraphernalia would be spilling out of old, rusty wheelbarrows that would be sitting at the front stairs at grandpop’s house.
These loads would need to be wheeled carefully down the road to where the dinghy would be anchored, near the old pearl lugger workshop sheds. We left in the mornings on high tide which meant a brisk early morning swim out to the dinghy to ferry it back in.
After loading up the dinghy, we would set out across the harbour towards Ngurupai, dodging buoys, beacons, channel markers, dinghy’s, pearling luggers and the occasional ferry to cast net for sardine at the wharf. After catching sardine, we would head off to one of athe’s secret fishing spots – usually in the middle of nowhere and drop anchor for a couple of hours, which was usually adequate time to fill the bottom of the boat with reef fish of all sorts and sizes. The salt air, the smell of fish, the wind, the water . . . a fisherman’s paradise.
Following this, a lengthy ride on the bike to family, friends and local fish stores across the island delivering the day’s catch would occur – and to think . . . all of this happened before lunchtime.
The White Kangaroo
Nov -1983 Ambalindum Station, east of Yipirinya (Alice Springs). I was 16 years old, 2 weeks before I was 17. Riding on horses, me and my cousin was horse tailing from 12 noon till 9pm that night. It was a long ride. Just on dark we stopped for water, it was then after mounting up and riding for a few minutes in hilly rock country just there on a ledge, absolutely majestic, unbelievable. There stood a pure white kangaroo. Like in a trance I just stared for some time.
This moment felt special to me. It’s like he was waiting for me to arrive. Then I realised this was the Kadatji Man and I best gallop away in a real hurry, very frightened, not knowing what was going to happen to me! That night I got sick. then in 3 days' time I ended up in hospital in Alice Springs. With boils on my kidneys, both. For I month I suffered. Doctors could not explain this. They explained to me that they had never seen nor heard of this before. I told them in our culture the White Kangaroo is a Kadatji Man. He did this to me, for looking at him. Pretty amazing don't you think.
Gurri (Bidjara Blanket), 2023
Since 2018, I have been returning to my grandfather, Ted Lawton's Bidjara country, on top of the great dividing range. I have needed to learn how to be on that country, in the open, in the cold months when temperatures normally drop below zero degrees centigrade for days in succession.
There is Bidjara language, recorded in the 20th Century, that names blanket / swag - and in the nuances of the translations, I hear the Bidjara language of cloaks.
I used to love this rainbow belt, as a young scene-queen in my 20's, in the Fortitude Valley. For a number of years now, this rainbow belt has held my bedding together, on my return to Bidjara and Garingbal and Ghungalu territories in Central Queensland.
Donovan was born at Billabong Station out of Mullewa in 1974. He grew up and lived in Wiluna nearly all of his life, attending school at the Wiluna Remote Community School, and High School at Meekatharra.
Donovan works usually will depict bush tucker, in particular Honey Ants and Bardies (Witchery Grubs), Goanna, family and seeds.
Release is about letting go off things that bound and hold us down. The bird image depicts freedom and flying above all circumstances in life and walking together embracing and walking in unity.
Art Centre notes: The artwork is a ‘pochoir’ print, or monoprint, printed on BFK Rives paper (100% cotton rag with strong archival properties) The print covers the paper from edge to edge.
My Grandmothers Country
For me, Country is much more than a place. Country is family, culture, identity. Country is self. I regularly visit my Grandmother’s Country, Atnwengerrp, which lies in a remote desert region northeast of Alice Springs.
The Elders have entrusted me with the cultural knowledge and responsibility to care for the land.
Maintaining connection to my grandmother’s Country is vital so I can pass on important stories to my children, so they know who they are and where they come from.
I consult with my Elders to make sure I paint this Country “proper way”.
Trimanya Krakani Ta (Echidna At Rest)
I have made this work in recognition of my ancestors who utilised both echidnas and sinue in their everyday life, By repurposing animals that have died I feel I am giving them respect and paying homage to the animals and their importance to our old people.
It takes at least 12 months to prepare the quills, I also harvested the sinue.
In this piece the quills are from one animal which accounts for the even colour tone, colours tones vary so much between animals.
Traditions evolve and I’m sure what I do today will become the traditions of future generations which is very inspiring and makes me want to continue to be inventive.
Window Pain – Portal to the Past
Jennifer Herd’s work invariably harks back to her Mother’s Country in Far North Queensland, referencing the traditional shield designs of that area. Herd tells her stories of displacement and fortitude not with aggression or vengeance but with the objective of connecting sophisticated imagery and design back to her ancestral home adjacent to the sites of historical massacres.
This work echoes the idea of home truths breaking through a framed colonial world view. It is composed as a portal to the past revealing glimpses of frontier resistance too often camouflaged in the nation’s narrative.
Central to the work are references to Jennifer’s geometric shield designs. These diamond elements are perforated signposts to past skirmishes and the wounds of contested ground. The diamonds work with the composition of the federation style window frame to provide a sharp focal point, channelling one’s view to what lies beneath the colonial fabric. Standing on the inside looking out, it suggests the viewer might see through a different lens, to gaze through the elements of obscurity (camouflage) and give attention to Aboriginal perspectives of the colonial frontier portrayed by the blood red warrior image set as the backdrop*.
The work is presented as a closed window installed on a wall. In this form it is presented to symbolise the shutting out of uncomfortable conversations. The work is flexible however and can also be implemented within a hinged frame, allowing the windows to be left ajar to give the background image more exposure.
* These historical figures emerged from the artist’s research into colonial views and the frontier wars in Queensland. A key reference is the work, Two of the Natives of New Holland, Advancing to Combat 1773, by Thomas Chambers (after Sydney Parkinson) (Russell Grimwade collection). They are seen brandishing shields and spears in acts of resistance and defiance.
Joanne Currie Nalingu
Joanne Currie’s work is elegant and minimal – lines of detail follow river-currents that occasionally open up in eye-like shapes to invite the viewer to consider the infinite structures and patterns of meaning underneath the watery veil. In her ongoing explorations of her River Line works begun 25 years ago, Joanne has experimented with new treatments for the building up of grounds, textures, and the finish of her painting. The importance of the river as a metaphor is constant in Joanne’s painting, stemming from her early life living in the Yumba on the banks of the Maranoa River in Mitchell. But Joanne also realises that these are meditative interpretations. … “that river is really a symbol for all rivers, for all people”. Her paintings depict water as an endless flow and universal life source. Deviating from flat colours or photographic imagery, this background is layered with soft (yellow) stripes that the artist refers to as ‘that particular glow’. Along with her distinctive river lines, these elements are delicately blended to create an effect reminiscent of morning light - an implicit and glowing confidence to be found and measured day by day. There is an additional element in this painting, a mysterious shadowy shield form, floating above the work. The artist continues to reference the Maranoa shield – as both a direct reference to birthplace and to her survival and fortitude through the turbulence of life. As Joanne strives to balance both the spiritual and political, the impact of these works seep in slowly, held taught by a filigree of the eddying white lines, and allows us all to be momentarily mesmerized.
Joanne Napangardi Wheeler
Women's Ceremony in the Bush
Ladies dancing, two different groups (left and right).
Some ladies sitting, singing.
Some ladies cooking, kangaroo tail, tea, soup, making damper, next to the (Finke) River.
They in the bush, long way from community.
Only ladies and young girls, learning young girls, grandmothers, aunties, mothers all show them how.
Lots of ladies from different communities, different places, all coming together for ceremony.
Johnathon World Peace Bush
The Last Supper and the Big Breakfast
For both my Tiwi people and my global family I want culture to be strong. If you don’t have culture, you fall and have to fight to reconnect. Without culture we are all lost….I hold the Western and Aboriginal law in my hands for all humankind to be equal. I have to balance both laws. I have been through many obstacles in order for my words to be heard.
I hope my artwork gives a glimpse into my strong beliefs of a want for world peace and equality for all humankind: ‘This time is your time. It is time for you to talk big. You need to fight to keep culture alive.’ I remember my older male ancestors saying this to me. They have all passed away now, but they have left work for me to do…it is important to link the past to the present for healthy future regeneration. Like a chain reaction. To fix up a family tree you have to go down to the roots and into the past. Love is the fruit of good family. I work for a future that is bright and where everything will be alright.” – Johnathon Bush
Johnathon’s ochre paintings are a unique combination of Tiwi visual culture and his personal views on global politics, religion and cultural heritage. His painting techniques reflect jilamara (ceremonial Tiwi body paint design) used to create representations of political figureheads, stories of historical crimes against indigenous people and Catholic imagery that relates specifically to the colonial experiences of the Tiwi.
Since a mission was established on Bathurst Island in 1911, Catholicism remains embedded in the colonial experience of the Tiwi people. In many of his works, Johnathon recreates iconic Catholic narratives often from representations by historical western artists and then he combines them with Tiwi cultural designs using local earth pigments collected from Country. The power of Johnathon’s work is that it frames these narratives from a Tiwi perspective, celebrating the resilient and ancient living culture to which he belongs.
(But I always wanted to be one of the Macho Men)
Self Portrait (But I always wanted to be one of the Macho Men) renders a still-life dramatization of the interior self and its inheritances from those who’ve come before.
Conversation unfolds between Randy Jones of The Village People, the illuminating philosophy of the late Gordon Bennett, and the artist himself, in front of an inimitable Albert Namatjira backdrop: Williams pays tribute to and celebrates identities of Camp, Queerness and Indigeneity through western tropes of “being”.
The “Cowboy” exists in a world of his own, one that’s part fiction, part romance and part liberation.
Developing a character out of this world that embraces and exalts the tensions of identity to forges a masculinity that prioritises play. I too always wanted to be that Cowboy. To embody macho that was both fluid and fun. Macho in a way that denies the gaze of all other “men” in the room.
This painting depicts designs associated with a rockhole site of Marrapinti, west of Pollock Hills in Western Australia. A large group of ancestral women camped at this rockhole before continuing their travels further east, passing through Wala Wala, Kiwirrkurra and Ngaminya.
While at the site, the women made nose bones, also known as Marrapinti, which are worn through a hole made in the nose web.
These nose bones were originally used by both men and women but are now only inserted by the older generation on ceremonial occasions. As the women continued their travels east they gathered edible berries known as kampurarrpa or desert raisin from the small shrub Solanum Centrale. These berries can be eaten directly from the plant but are sometimes ground into a paste and cooked on the coals as a type of damper.
Hundreds of years old, these oyster shells have fallen from their midden in Tebrakunna, the far north east of Lutruwita (Tasmania). Ostrea angasi is the native estuarine oyster which was abundant across Lutruwita prior to colonisation, but the beds were destroyed by the settlers within one hundred years.
Long ago these oysters were enjoyed by my ancestors, whose discarded shells formed the middens in the Little Musselroe Bay sand dunes today. Ongoing storms have visibly eroded the dunes, causing the shells to tumble down to the pristine beach. Bleached white over time. many oyster shells still contain ash from the fires of the Old Ones, and plant matter holds it together. The ocean reclaims these fallen shells, completing the tidal cycle so long after their harvest.
Our families shared the shellfish around their campfires for thousands of years. Then sealers arrived to plunder the natural wealth of Bass Strait. The sealers caused great suffering and misery, and many were cruel. They shot our men and stole our women and girls. The blood of our men flowed red into that beautiful white sand, until finally, there was none left to spill.
This work represents the tragic and irreversible colonial stain of those events on my people and our history.
Dhapalany is a master weaver who creates her woven elements using pandanus from the surrounding Ramingining bush. Her work embodies the traditional knowledge of the Yolngu Nation. The plant material is worked and treated in the ways passed on from ancestors and in doing, she recreates and identifies with sacred ceremonial objects which connect Yolngu to each other, to their past, their Creative Beings and to their Country.
For this piece Mary has created a “twin” mat.
Mary is the twin sister of the late David Gulpilil and this piece represents the forever spiritual bond she has with him.
The fish traps which the Torres Strait Islanders used, were built by our ancestors thousands of years before time. Each fish trap belonged to different families to use and look after.
The stone-wall fish traps were built to trap marine animals, they are the largest structure built by first nation people and are visible from the air when flying.
The fish trap was designed to be most effective at mid-tides, they were also used for cultural ceremonies, where our younger men and women were taught the ways, signs and readings of the tides to best catch seafood for family and community.
The circular patterns in my image represent the rocks that makes the Garaz - fish trap, at the bottom of the image is a pattern of a local vine we call Sazi and also the marking outside the Garaz is the representation our low tides.
The practice is that, we crush the Sazi-vine with a rock to create a milky sap, which is then soaked in the sea water within the trap. This action takes the oxygen out of the water bringing the fish trapped in the Garaz, floating to the surface of the water for us then to gather.
I truly believe that these first Nations innovation of our traditional structures, should be culturally listed and for our families today to maintain these culturally important practices.
Sorry Business at Kaltukatjara
Sorry business at Kaltukatjara. Sad times. Families gathered, sitting down.
Families came from far and wide. I am there with my family too.
Pastor at doorway of the church. We are all mourning the passing of my Aunty together, singing, praying, loving her. Palya
Troller boats are usually seen in our waters in the western, central and eastern part of the Torres Strait. In the Eastern edge of the top end of the Great Barrier Reef it has deeper waters it's usually known for great fishing and diving. Business is taken place where the divers sell the days catch to the trollers and then pack them to send down south and overseas to bigger and wider market.
The artwork is a B/W lino print, printed on BFK Rives paper 100% cotton rag with strong archival properties.
Ray Mudjandi and
‘Black Speed’ is the outcome of a collaboration between Ray Mudjandi of Marrawuddi Arts and Culture and Rona Rubuntja of Hermannsburg Potters.
‘Black Speed’ is Ray Mudjandi’s latest superhero story, inspired by his recent research trip to Western Arrente Country, where he met with his father’s family for the first time. During this trip, Ray travelled to Hermannsburg Potters where he was drawn to using clay as a medium. He developed a working relationship with Rona, where they developed a collaborative sculpture of ‘Black Speed’. Ray and Rona developed this work together, hand building the vessel, developing the story and Rona finishing the underglaze painting. This story focuses on a Bininj kid who receives superpowers after touching a rock that fell out of the sky (which happened to be from Devil’s Marbles). After touching this rock, the Bininj kid suddenly becomes fast and powerful when playing basketball – which is directly referenced on the handmade vessel.
Realiu was his name before black speed. Mealiu is the cousin brother.
Black speed is black, yellow and orange, he’s got big nose like Bininj, like this one.
- Ray Mudjandi, 2023
Wati Ngintaka (Perentie Lizard Man)
This is a straight story, from the Tjukurpa (Creation Time), and nobody can change that story. This is about the Ngintaka.. it's an old story, taught by my father and my grandfather. I'm happy doing this painting, because I'm explaining my story. People will see the story of what I'm trying to tell in the painting. My history, my culture, I'm teaching my culture through this painting.
I feel proud to teach young ones about Country, my Tjukurpa, our learning stories, about family ancestors, how to find waterholes and best tucker. Show them the right way, connection to culture how my father taught me long time ago. I now live at old people’s (aged care) in Mutitjulu, where I paint Wati Ngintaka, (Perentie Lizard Man).
No Tin Shack
I still remember the day a large vehicle pulled up outside my home on the outskirts of the town of Mitchell. I lived on a small plot of land that I believe was part of an Aboriginal Reserve or Land reserved for Aboriginal people (Aborigines). Soon after, there was a loud knocking on our front door.
At the door was a pallid white man, dressed in a pressed white shirt and dark (possibly blue) tie accompanied by grey shorts and knee-high whitish socks. His wide brimmed hat did nothing to hide this man’s arrogance and air of superiority to which I took an instant dislike.
He was the Booringa Shire Council Health Inspector. He started talking to my mother just as another heavy vehicle began to approach our place. He asked if we had received a notice to leave. She answered that we didn't have running water, electricity or sewerage, let alone a letterbox with a home delivery postal service (forgetting to mention the school bus that drove right past our reserve without picking us up). Nevertheless, Mr Health Inspector ordered us to pack our belongings so he could proceed to demolish our home. We were stunned to say the least. We knew there weren’t any places to move to in Mitchell because the Booringa Shire Council had already demolished twenty or more homes from the Mitchell Yumba, the main Aboriginal Reserve. The Sergeant of Police asked my mother if we had anywhere to move to and she replied that we hadn’t.
He turned to the Health Inspector and instructed him to stop the proceedings because we didn’t have anywhere else to go. I could see that he was very disappointed, which cheered up my brother Marshall and I, if only momentarily. He stormed over to his car and sped off into town. Sometime later, he reappeared to recommence his dirty work. We found out later that there were no vacant properties in Mitchell at that time. However, there were two condemned houses. Mr Health Inspector apparently arranged for one of those houses to be uncondemned where we didn’t live happily ever after.
Uncondemned. Is that a word?
Richard Bell, 7 October 2022
Party Popper (Heart Stopper)
PARTY POPPER (HEART STOPPER) is a pencil drawing depicting feminine hands firing off a round from a Taser. Tasers, also known as stun guns) are said to be non-lethal weapons and are widely used by the Australian police force.
There have been a multitude of Taser brutality incidents since their inclusion into the weaponry of the police force.
Taser charges have been found to be strongly linked to heart rhythm problems, sudden cardiac arrest and death.
When Tasers are fired, they release a confetti-like burst, these circular stamps are printed with the identification numbers of the charge cartridge shot.
The Taser logo on the drawing has been offered as an electrified heart.
Sally M Nangala Mulda
Two Woman, Two Man, Two Story
Two woman, two man, two story. At Town Camp. Two woman eating. Dinner time. Damper with honey jam. Two man talking story about sickness. Dog sleeping.
Sally paints about her life. the people. and events she observes daily as a resident of one of Alice Springs Town Camps.
Tangentyere Artists represents residents of Town Camps, the name used for the eighteen Aboriginal housing associations in Alice Springs.
Established by Aboriginal people as a not-for-profit organisation, the art centre fosters the creative aspirations of Town Camp artists, who are an important voice in our national conversation.
Town Camp residents live under some of the most challenging conditions in Australia.
Despite this, or because of it, the art centre has given rise to a unique brand of visual storytelling.
Modern times has shown that plastic bags are detrimental to the environment and may often be mistaken for jellyfishes which are a food source for marine predators such as the Waru (Green-Sea Turtle). The Waru can be found throughout the waters of Zenadh Kes (Torres Strait Islands) and has been a part of our peoples diet for thousands of years and it is important why we should look after our environment, for the sustainability of our people and our future generations.
This artwork is also an analogy for us to be mindful of what we are consuming as well both physically and mentally but also on a spiritual level to live a fruitful life in today's modern world
‘WHERE HAVE ALL THE CHILDREN GONE?’ ™️
We can no longer escape
Into the truth of Bush Mary
we’re non virgin,
Used by the Carnal.
SHE is everybody.
Bush Mary Blood.
SHE has no voice.
SHE comes out of the bush.
Bush Mary arrives
From the dark
SHE slides outa the light
SHE returns to the meat.
SHE is a single mother
With a bush
SHE is the fucking Holy Ghost!
Poetry from Teena McCarthy's book of Poetry ‘Bush Mary’ by Cordite Publishing, Melb