Vincent Lingiari Art Award asserts Aboriginal water rights  

[by Elke Wiesmann]

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Image: supplied

Desart and the Central Land Council are inviting Aboriginal artists to submit works for the third Vincent Lingiari Art Award that speak to the theme Ngawa, Ngapa, Kapi, Kwatja, Water.

 

The $10,000 award celebrates the 55th anniversary of the Wave Hill Walk Off, when Vincent Lingiari led striking station workers to camp near Wattie Creek in the Northern Territory, by accepting works that respond to the critical importance of water for the continued survival of Aboriginal peoples.

 

“We have chosen this year’s theme to spread the word that water rights are land rights,” CLC chair Sammy Wilson (pictured) said.

 

“The government gave us some of our land back but not the water. Water is the new land rights."

 

“This year’s Vincent Lingiari Art Award highlights the campaign for Aboriginal water rights the NT land councils kicked off last year with their call for a safe drinking water act,” Desart chief executive Philip Watkins said.

 

“The award has always been unashamedly political and this year it will raise awareness of our struggle against massive water theft that threatens the survival of desert plants, animals and people and for safe drinking water for our remote communities,” he said.

 

Water is critical to the social, cultural, economic and political identity of Aboriginal people in the CLC region.

 

“Over almost half a century the CLC has won back significant areas of land on behalf of traditional Aboriginal land owners, but without safe, secure and adequate sources of water their very survival on this land is under threat,” CLC chief executive Lesley Turner said.

 

“Poor water quality, water shortages, water use in fracking and agribusiness have a detrimental impact on the health and well-being of our people, their country and cultures.”

 

He said the award exhibition from 8 September 2021 at the Tangentyere Artists Gallery in Alice Springs will send an urgent message not to take water for granted in a world where water rights are shaping up as a new frontier. Artists from the CLC region (the southern half of the NT) and art centres affiliated with Desart have until 30 June to submit works that explore their connection with their land and water.

 

In addition to the main award, CLC members will choose the winner of the Delegates Choice Award when they meet from 24 to 26 August at Mr Lingiari’s home of Kalkaringi, ahead of the 55th Freedom Day celebration at the community.

 

The CLC and Desart established the Vincent Lingiari Art Award in 2016 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic Wave Hill Walk Off and the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (NT) 1976.

 

“Only my father knows all the stories for that country, and he painted them too. I know the story of the wallaby which left me with a birthmark. That’s what I paint,” she said.

 

This year’s award judge Glenn Iseger-Pilkington said Ms Jack’s work “speaks to the story of her life, her birth and her cultural inheritance, which informs all that she paints, all that's she is, and where she belongs”.

 

“I was taken aback with the sense of movement, balance and energy held within a modest sized canvas rendered in blues, oranges, varying shades of golden creams and pale yellows. It is a painting which is quiet and reflective yet simultaneously bold and energetic.”

 

Ms Jack has held 11 solo exhibitions and has been a finalist in many art prestigious awards, including several times in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, but this is only her second art prize.

 

Desart and the Central Land Council joined forces for only the second time to present the Vincent Lingiari Art Award.

 

Mr Lingiari’s granddaughters were present when Ms Jack was named the winner at the Tangentyere Artists Gallery in Alice Springs on Wednesday night.

 

The CLC’s deputy chair Barbara Shaw also announced the winner of the CLC Delegates’ Choice Award on the night.

 

“At their council meeting in August at Ross River, our delegates picked a small painting by David Frank which celebrates a successful handback of land near Ernabella in the early 80s,” Ms Shaw said.

 

In 2019 the award theme Our Country – True Story reflected on the call of the Uluru Statement from the Heart for truth-telling.

 

The Aboriginal land rights and contemporary Aboriginal art movements share the same roots.

 

They evolved in the NT at the same time, drew strength from the same sources and have significantly contributed to Australia’s modern national identity.

 

The award is made possible through the generous support from the Peter Kittle Motor Company and Newmont Goldcorp

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