Australia Strives to Win New Recognition for Aboriginal Art

Aboriginal Art Directory | 29.08.10

For Jimmy Donegan, who won first prize at the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Art Awards earlier this month, it was a summer of important firsts. Although he has painted for his whole life, the 70-year-old had never entered a competition before this one, the most prestigious of Australia’s awards for indigenous art. When he left his remote desert home to travel to Darwin and accept his prize, it was the first time he had ever seen the ocean. Donegan related to the Australian Associated Press that the large painting — whose vibrant hues and twisting lines call to mind a colorful, mysterious maze — was based on ancestral stories with spiritual significance.

While Donegan’s painting recalls the deep traditional roots of indigenous art and the isolated locales of its practitioners, recent developments reveal that this artistic field is far from homogeneous. This year, a category for digital media was introduced into the competition that Donegan entered, reflecting experiments that a younger generation of indigenous artists are undertaking. Along the same lines, the new Web site Storylines, a joint project of the Dictionary of Australian Artists Online and the University of New South Wales, is trying to firmly place indigenous artists within the category of contemporary arts. While they are usually associated with Australia’s sparsely settled northern and central regions, Storylines shows that indigenous artists have a real presence in urban areas.


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Contact Details

Gallery: Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award
Address: Conacher Street Bullocky Point Darwin NT



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