What is surely the most diverse art award for Indigenous Australia has just uploaded its finalists on to the web. The King & Wood Mallesons Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award is biennial and being held this year in Brisbane at Griffith University.

Previous winners have been Barkindji photographer Teena McCarthy in 2018 for her moving image ‘Kopi in the Mourning’, and Michelle Woody from the Tiwi Islands for a finely detailed canvas, Ngiya Murrakupupuni (My Country) in 2020. There are also commendations and local artist awards – as the exhibition travels – and peoples’ choices.

The purpose of the Award, says KWM is to acknowledge the outstanding contribution made to Australian culture by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists in remote, regional and urban areas throughout Australia working in wall hung two or three dimensional media including painting, photography, drawing, printmaking, weaving, jewellery, acrylic glass, metal, works on bark or board, mixed media, digital media and sculpture.

​And in case you’re unaware of the Awards’ sponsors, King & Wood Mallesons is a top tier international law firm, from Asia, for the world. They state: “Our work acknowledges and reflects the injustices and legacy that has continued to impact on the lives of First Peoples. Our approach is embedded with a deep recognition of our privilege, and the responsibility and role we have to play in redressing these injustices”.

And this year’s diversity selected by an all-Indigenous panel under the patronage of Djon Mundine? Well it runs from Richard Bell‘s politics to the ancient crafts of woman artists such as Jeanette James in lutruwita and Mary Dhapalany in Ramingining off the coast of Arnhemland. Bell recalls his family’s expulsion from a tin shed in Mitchell as the Aboriginal Reserve was being cleared. James has her own way with roadkill echidnas, using their quills to craft a necklace so attractive that a version on exhibition in Hobart has been stolen! And Dhapalany has woven herself into a twin mat in remembrance of the late David Gulpilil, who was her twin.

The varieties continue with a lovely tondo from Mornington Island’s Amy Loogatha, a classic Brian Robinson print that employs R2D2 to assist in a TSI fishing expedition, and the most perverse sculptural work from D Harding – a ‘Bidjara Blanket’ rolled up and encased to somehow connect his ancient Carnarvon culture with his days as a ‘scene-queen’ Brisbane!

And there’s more – back to the Torres Strait, Fiona Mosby excites with a colourful pochoir print called ‘Release’; Louise Daniels reveals the ‘Colonial Stain’ behind the extinct oyster shells found in NW Tasmania that used to be enjoyed by her ancestors; and Sally Mulda suggests that there‘s not been much change since Richard Bell’s childhood in her diptych of Town Camp life in Alice.

Finally, Cameron Ross gallops across Eastern Arrenrnte Country and mythology to tell the story of his meeting a ‘White Kangaroo’ that was actually a Kadatji Man.

But only one can win the top award – which will be announced on 14th September at GUAM. But all winners to travel to Brisbane for this event. Voting in the People’s Choice Award​ then opens. And the show continues until 14 October.