Australian Revelations will screen the Perth premiere of Namatjira Project this month.
Albert Namatjira was the first Indigenous person – an Aranda man – to be made a citizen by the Australian Government. This was a time when Aboriginal people were still considered flora and fauna – some 170 years after white people arrived in Australia.
He was an extraordinary man; founder of the Indigenous art movement in Australia, exhibited globally, and introduced to Queen Elizabeth. Albert was taught to paint by white artist Rex Battarbee when they met in the 1930s at Hermannsburg Mission, in the Central Australian desert. Their close friendship was to have a decisive impact on Australian art, and by the 1950s Namatjira had become the most famous Aboriginal person of his time.However, Albert was caught between cultures – paraded as a great Australian while simultaneously treated with contempt, and eventually wrongfully imprisoned.
Albert passed away in 1959. In 1983 the copyright to his entire catalogue of artworks was sold by the Government to an art dealer. Despite his work being so iconic – reproduced commercially on prints, tea towels and hanging on living room walls around the world – his family today fight for survival, justice and crucially, have only weeks ago regained the copyright to their grandfather’s work.Namatjira Project traces this family’s quest. They team up with art & social justice organisation – Big hART – to tour a theatre production about Albert’s life, raising awareness, calling for support, and for a return of the copyright. Big hART is invited to stage the show in London and they use this opportunity to generate international pressure. Queen Elizabeth invites the Namatjiras to Buckingham Palace, and UK media pick up the story of this famous family’s struggle.
In Australia, despite valiant efforts, the silence is deafening and the Namatjiras return home powerless.The Namatjira family continue to deal with issues faced by many remote Indigenous Australians – poor health and life expectancy, overrepresentation in prisons, unemployment and limited education.The copyright was a deeply symbolic issue and despite recent developments speaks to the unresolved relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, and is a prism to examine this issue in a global context.
You can find more details about this must-see screening here.