68 Indigenous artists from across Australia have been selected as finalists for the 2019 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAAs), the country’s longest running and most illustrious Indigenous art awards. Telstra has announced that it is so proud to sponsor the awards, now in their 36th year, that they’re going to extend their partnership for another three years.

Supporting the NATSIAA for 28 of its 36 years”, their announcement states’ “means that we have seen how supporting a focal point of our country’s finest Indigenous artists further showcases their talent, shares their stories and expresses their imagination. We believe it is an important part of Australian society to share ideas and culture through artistic expression, in all its diverse forms.

Working with the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory to display Indigenous culture in the Telstra NATSIAA, Telstra believes it is helping to support an inclusive Australia where all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are connected and empowered to thrive.

Across the eight awards categories, First Nations artists from regional and urban areas submitted 280 entries in the 2019 NATSIAA, with finalist judging taking place last week in Sydney. Pre-selectors are Luke Scholes from MAGNT, retired curator Hetti Perkins and the MCA’s Clothilde Bullen. Collectively, winners will receive $80,000, including the $50,000 Telstra Art Award for the work judged most outstanding in all categories and the Telstra Emerging Artist Award of $5000 awarded from any category to an artist working in their first five years of practice.

MAGNT’s Indigenous curator, Luke Scholls enthused: The emerging artist category continues to breathe new life into the Awards and the broader arts sector.

MAGNT Director, Marcus Schutenko said: MAGNT is thrilled to receive such an exciting range of emerging and established artists’ entries from most Australian states and territories.

Telstra CEO Andrew Penn “ himself a collector – added: The Awards now stand as a globally significant artistic celebration and enormous credit for that must go to MAGNT for providing such a brilliant showcase for the unique creativity and diverse talents of Indigenous artists. The quality and scope of the work this year is again superb.

The winners of the 36th Telstra NATSIAA will be announced at an awards ceremony at MAGNT’s Bullocky Point site as the sun sets on Friday 9 August 2019.

The Finalists by region:
Northern Territory
B. Yunupingu
Barayuwa Munuŋgurr
Betty Kuntiwa Pumani
Billy Tjampijinpa Kenda
Deborah Wurrkidj
Dhuwarrwarr Marika
Donald Thompson
Djambawa Marawili
Gary Lee
Grace Robinya
Gunybi Ganambarr
Gutingarra Yunupingu
Iluwanti Ken
Lance James
Lena Yarinkura
Lynette Lewis
Malaluba Gumana
Mantua Nangala
Marlene Rubuntja
Mary Dhapalany
Matjangka(Nyukana) Norris
Mick Wikilyiri
Napuwarri Marawili
Neville McArthur
Nola Campbell
Noŋgirrŋa Marawili
Nyunmiti Burton
Owen Yalandja
Sally M Mulda
Titus Nganjmirra
Tony Cameron
Wawiriya Burton
Witjiti George
Wurrandan Marawili
Yimula Munuŋgurr
Victoria – Cassie Leatham Christopher Pease James Tylor Kent Morris
Australian Capital Territory – Krystal Hurst
New South Wales – Dean Cross
Queensland – Danie Mellor Robert Tommy Pau
South Australia
Carlene Thompson
Damien Shen
Ernabella Arts
Kaylene Whiskey
Nici Cumpston
Pepai Carroll
Peter Mungkuri
Rupert Jack
Yaritji Young
Western Australia
Bob Gibson
Bugai Whyoulter
Daisy Japulija
Fred Grant
Glenn Iseger-Pilkington
John Prince Siddon
Lawrence Pennington
Mabel Juli
Mervyn Street
Myrtle Pennington
Ned Grant
Ngarralja Tommy May
Nyaparu Gardiner
Rusty Peters
Sonia Kurarra
Timo Hogan

Many familiar names there “ though it’s delightful to see old names like Rusty Peters and Neville McArthur still producing gems, relative unknowns like Titus Nganjmirra, Timo Hogan and Krystal Hurst breaking through, and superstars like Djambawa and Nonggirrgna Marawili, Waywiriya Burton and last year’s Big Telstra winner Gunybi Ganambarr continuing to compete. I have to say that the Queensland representation is a disappointment – just a single Torres Strait Islander and no one from the Cape. What’s up?

And who is Donald Thompson – a reincarnation of the great Arnhemland pioneer?

The final Judges Panel will consist of Rhana Devenport, appointed Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia just last year, but was previously in New Zealand and, before that worked on the Asia Pacific Triennial at the Queensland Art Gallery: my friend Pedro Wonaeamirri who is a senior Tiwi artist and community leader in Millikapiti, Melville Island; and Zoe Rimmeris the Senior Curator of Indigenous Cultures at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and a proud member of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community.