Mabel Juli wins Kate Challis RAKA Award 2013
Gija artists are going from strength to strength in 2013. This month the limelight is on Mabel Juli who was last night announced the $25 000 winner of the Kate Challis RAKA Award for 2013 for her painting Garnkeny Ngarranggarni (2010).
The annual award, which follows a 5-year cycle recognises Indigenous creative artists across the fields of prose, drama, script-writing, poetry and of course the focus of this year’s prize, the visual arts. It was established in 1988 by Professor Emeritus Bernard Smith in memory of his late wife Kate Challis (formerly known as Ruth Adeney – RAKA stands for Ruth Adeney Koori Award). Previous recipients of this prestigious, invitation only award include: Gali Gurruwiwi (2009), Ricky Maynard (2003), Brook Andrew (1998) and Lin Onus (1993).
The winning artwork, Garnkeny Ngarranggarni (or Moon Dreaming), is an iconographic painting depicting ‘the Dreamtime story of how the moon in human form transformed into a hill, returning to life in the sky every month.’ The artist depicts a white star and moon crescent atop a hill, contrasting against a strong black background, all of which are produced from natural ochre.
Juli, an 80-year-old Gija elder from the community of Warmun in the East Kimberley attended last night’s Opening at the Ian Potter Museum of Art in Melbourne to accept the award.
The judges commended the winning piece for its refined minimalism and cross-cultural accessibility, describing it as ‘a poetic, sophisticated work which is deeply grounded in indigenous tradition but also extends outward to suggest the complex relationships existing between a diversity of both cultural and natural human experiences.’ The artist’s use of natural pigments was celebrated for invoking the ‘enduring essence of the Dreaming.’
Such use of natural pigments on canvas is characteristic of Warmun artists who dig their ochres directly out of Gija earth, rendering their art literally inseparable from country. This reinforces the strength of connection between the Ngarranggarni (Dreaming) and the land, the artist and her work.
Other artists shortlisted for the award were: Teresa Baker (SA), Daniel Boyd (Qld/NSW), Hector Burton (SA), Timothy Cook (Tiwi/NT), Alick Tipoti (TSI/QLD), Garawan Wanambi (NT), Regina Pilawuk Wilson (NT) and the late Kunmarnanya Mitchell (WA).
Garnkeny Ngarranggarni will be on display as part of the exhibition Under the Sun: the Kate Challis RAKA Award 2013 at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne until Sunday 3 November.