It seems an age since the Telstra NATSIAAs opened last August in Darwin. Just a few hurdles since then – Delta and Omicron, state borders closed, a war and now floods. The ‘Big Telstra’ was, of course, won by the wonderful Spinifex man, Timo Hogan.
But, obviously the show’s been running ever since then at the Museum & Art Gallery of the NT, for they’ve only just announced the winner of the People’s Choice prize. And it’s gone to Sally Scales for her mighty work ‘Wati Tjakura’ (2020). And mighty it needed to be – c 3 metres long – because it’s a classic APY canvas telling a complex story of events at Aralya in her Pitjantjatjara Country. Scales explained: “The Wal Mala (army) of Wati Wanambi (snake men) from Malara came and threw spears at Wati Tjakura, who’s an edible skink lizard. He tried to escape but they killed him. His family came down to bury him”.
Hailing from Pipalyatjara in the far west of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, Ms Scales has a notable art ancestry, being the granddaughter of revered elder and artist, Kunmanara Wawiriya Burton, and she’s the daughter of current artist Josephine Mick.
“One of the greatest things is being able to sit and paint with Mum,” she said. “It reminds me of when I used to sit down with my grandma and watch her paint. Sitting next to my Mum, and having the conversations with her about our painting, it’s very special.” Scales’ NATSIAA-winning wrk pays tribute to both her mother’s and grandmother’s stories and styles.
It’s amazing that Scales has time to paint at all, let alone such mighty works. For she was the youngest person to be elected Chairperson of the APY Executive Board and, now based in Adelaide, is part of the leadership team for the Uluru Statement implementation. She only began painting herself in 2020, and held her first exhibition at the APY Collective Gallery in Adelaide last year.
Scales told NITV, “With my work on the Uluru Statement, which is trying to get our communities being heard and changing the Constitution, painting allows me to refocus that work. It reminds me why it matters”.
The artist’s work can be currently seen at the Melbourne Art Fair, where The Agency is showing a number of works from remote art centres.
Entries are currently open for the 2022 Telstra NATSIAAs, closing very soon on Friday 18 March.
As an incentive, prize money has been increased for this year’s prizes. In a renewed sponsorship deal, Telstra has come to the party with the total pot shared amongst all winners more than doubled to $190,000.
Australia’s longest-running Indigenous art prize is now the country’s richest, with the overall winner of the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award now taking home $100,000, twice the previous amount.
Winners of each category award earn $15,000, which is triple what they won before. And funds available for acquisitions by the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory into the Telstra Collection have also increased from $10,000 to $50,000.
Artist: Sally Scales, Kunmanara Wawiriya Burton, Josephine Mick, Timo Hogan,