It’s the time of year for excitement and despair amongst the Indigenous art-making community as the Museum Art Gallery of the NT (MAGNT) announces its selection for the big Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards.

67 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists have been selected from 238 entries to exhibit in Australia’s most prestigious and longest running Indigenous art awards.

Finalists include 26 from the NT, 17 from WA, 16 from SA and 8 from QLD, NSW, ACT and Victoria. And, most unusually, 11 of the finalists have less than 5 years art practice under their precocious belts!

Pre-selector Glen Iseger-Pilkington commented: Pre-selection was challenging, as we knew it would be, but it was also incredibly reaffirming to see the unique ways people are telling stories, the ways people are reinventing traditional forms and materials, and the generosity of our community in sharing the most personal, and often challenging stories, through their diverse practices.

While we don’t know if people will walk through the exhibition this year, he continued, it’s encouraging that MAGNT has decided to proceed with the 2020 NATSIAA prizes, to honour the achievements of our Indigenous artists and makers, to honour our elders, our Country and the legacies that we leave for future generations.

MAGNT Indigenous Curator and another of the pre-selectors, Luke Scholes added: This year’s Awards will display a swathe of exciting emerging artists across a number of categories. Significant paintings, objects and multimedia confronts and reflects upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity, resilience and survival.

Here are the lucky 67, with those 11 tyros starred *:

Krystal Hurst
Angkaliya Curtis
Betty Kuntiwa Pumani and Marina Pumani Brown
Betty Muffler
Ginger Wikilyiri
lIwanti Ken
Keith Stevens
Leah Brady *
Mark Morris *
Nyunmiti Burton
Nyurpaya Kaika Burton
Peter Mungkuri and Alec Baker
Robert Fielding
Sammy Lyons *
Tiger Yaltangki
Tjala Women’s Collaborative
Wawiriya Burton
Amala Groom
Adrian Jangala Robertson
Barayuwa Munuŋgurr
Deborah Wurrkidj
Dhuwarrwarr Marika
Djerrkŋu Yunupiŋu *
Don Nakidilinj Namundja
Doreen Jinggarrabarra
Doris Bush Nungarrayi
Garawan Waṉambi
Gary Lee
Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu
Hubert Pareroultja in collaboration with Mervyn Rubuntja, Vanessa Inkamala.
Jack Green
Jason Lee
Joanne Napangardi Wheeler*
Lance James
Marrnyula Munuŋgurr
Mary Dhapalany
Mulkuṉ Wirrpanda
Noŋgirrŋa Marawili
Paul Namarinjmak Nabulumo
Raelene Kerinauia Lampuwatu
Rerrkirrwaŋa Munuŋgurr
Siena Mayutu Wurmarri Stubbs (18) *
Titus Nganjmirra
Yalanba Waṉambi
Yukultji Napangati
Cassie Leatham
Kent Morris
Annette Lormada *
Ben Ward
Bessie Daylight
Billy Yunkurra Atkins
Cecilia Umbagai *
Cynthia Burke
Dallas Smythe
Illiam Nargoodah*
John Prince Siddon
Leah Umbagai
Mabel Juli
Ngarralja Tommy May
Peggy Griffiths
Rosie Tarco King
Sonia Kurarra
Dylan Sarra
Jenna Lee *
Jimmy K Thaiday
Ryan Presley
Timo Hogan *

Names to watch could well be John Prince Siddon hot from his solo show in Perth, young but already ubiquitous Timo Hogan, the ancient Tiger Yaltangki, Peter Mungkari and Alec Baker working together, and NSW multi-media maverick Amala Groom.

Emergent artist, Leah Brady was excited in Adelaide: This is the very first time I have been short listed for the NAATSIAs, for me it really is a dream come true. I moved from my community in the APY Lands a few years ago. Last year with some other senior women from the APY Lands I started our (APY Art Centre Collective) gallery and studio in Adelaide. This is where I work on my paintings every day. Sadly, the latest news is that the COVID crisis has forced the Adelaide studio to close.

MAGNT Director, Marcus Schutenko, summed up: Congratulations to this year’s 67 finalists. It is always a resounding joy to discover and announce Telstra NATSIAA Finalists each year. We are elated to receive such a diverse range of submissions, especially during this difficult time. We are holding steadfast to the 37 year legacy of these Awards.

And Andy Penn, CEO of Telstra, the long-time sponsors of the Awards, reminded us that the winning artists may not even be able to leave their remote communities to collect their prizes this year: Staying connected during this time of self-isolation is so important. There is no better way to do so than through the medium of this incredible art, he said.