The third generation of the Namatjira family water-colour artists from Hermannsburg – Kevin and Lenie Namatjira – yesterday had a private audience with the Queen at Buck House in London. This follows the presentation of their grandfather and an example of his work to the Queen when she toured Australia in 1954.

This is all a spin-off project from the big ‘Australia‘ art exhibition at the Royal Academy. It incorporates the theatrical biography, ‘Namatjira‘ created by Scott Rankin from the pioneering Big hART company working with the Namatjira family over 5 years, and gives yet another starring role to actor Trevor Jamieson. That’s playing at the Purcell Room on the South Bank this week. Both of the Namatjira offspring create their landscapes reflecting their Arrernte country in the West Macdonnels on the walls of the theatre each night as the story is told.

And it involved an exhibition of 22 works art from the wider Hermannsburg clan “ including Mervyn Rabuntja, Peter Taylor and young Elton Wirri, working with the Ngurratjuta Art Centre, being on show (and for sale) at the theatre.

Despite all these indications of busy art activity, Lenie Namatjira later (on The Guardian’s website) made a plea for a new arts centre at Hermannsburg: “I gave her (the Queen) a painting, a present from my grandson Kevin and I, as well as a postcard from the kids in Hermannsburg, which they made for the occasion. And I told her the children have got to learn to paint like I once did, and that we need her help for this, to make our local art centre a good one. The government is working for her. She’s next to God, she looks after the nation, she can make this right.

“We want support from the government to start an arts centre in Alice Springs. We want more funding to support Aboriginal art centres so we can keep painting strong for generations. We want a place to sit together to come watch and learn how to paint “ where anyone can come, and is welcome. Painting is how we make our money to look after our families, and it is hard to paint because we often don’t have our own place and no car to get out to the bush to paint our country.

“I am asking for art centre because we, the artists, want our own art centre so that no-one can control us “ so we can own our own art. We want to be able to support our young ones and keep them strong and proud, so they can show their culture and country in their work. And we want them to start up before the rest of us get too old”.

The Hermannsburg art display has been organised by the indefatigable Helen Read working from Darwin. These artworks can be viewed on her Palya Art website.

The artists will also be carrying out workshops at the Royal Academy “ where the main exhibition continues until 8 December. From the catalogue, it appears that only cousin Otto Pareroultja has a work in ‘Australia‘. But it seems that the ludicrous control over Albert Namatjira’s copyright by a commercial organisation means that the two works by him in London can’t be reproduced in the Royal Academy catalogue.

Palya Art


Artist: Albert Namatjira, Otto Pareroultja, Mervyn Rabuntja, Peter Taylor, Elton Wirri, Lenie Namatjira, Kevin Namatjira,

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Tags: Big hART , Helen Read , hermannsburg , Jeremy Eccles , Namatjira , palya art , Royal Academy ,

Gallery: Palya Art ,