top of page

natsiaa winners 2014

The Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award

The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory has hosted the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award (NATSIAA) since 1984.


The aim of the award is to recognise the important contribution made by Indigenous artists from regional and urban areas throughout Australia, working in both traditional and contemporary media. It's an important showcase for both established and emerging artists and has come to be regarded as one of the premier national events in the Australian Indigenous art calendar.


In 2014 a youth award was introduced for the first time. Its inclusion embraces innovation and changing trends in the contemporary Indigenous art market. It’s an investment that will keep the NATSIAA relevant for decades to come.





Tony Albert

2014 Telstra Art Award - $50,000



Tony Albert is the winner of the 2014 Telstra Award of $50,000.


 Mining imagery and source material from across the globe, and drawing upon personal and collective histories, Albert questions how we understand and imagine difference. Weaving together text appropriated from popular music, film, fiction, and art history, along with clichéd images of aliens, photographs of his family, and an immense collection of “Aboriginalia” (a term the artist coined to describe objects that feature naive portrayals of Australian Aboriginal people and their culture), Albert presents a tapestry of ideas.


He has exhibited his work at many international venues, including the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel; the City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand; and the Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, South Korea. He is represented in collections; including the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane. 

Tony Albert, We Can Be Heroes, 2013, pigment print on paper

Judge's Comments


'We Can Be Heroes' is a response by the artist to a tragedy that occurred in Kings Cross, Sydney where police shot two Aboriginal teenagers as they went on a joy ride. Tony Albert argues the idea that Aboriginal men are targeted by nature of their ancestry. Consisting of 20 portraits, each young man emerges from a black background into the light where they confront the audience with a range of emotions, positions and stances. There is a quiet beauty and sense of intimacy evident in each photograph as each man represents all Aboriginal men, one people proud and defiant. This work focuses on the consequences of dispossession and racism for Aboriginal men but carries a positive message – that together everyone can be a hero.

Judge's Comments


Uncommon in Aboriginal painting practices, silver and gold pigments are employed in Daniel Walbidi’s Wirnpa and Sons 2014 giving life to the stark bleached saltpans and the parched desert sand dunes of his homelands. The harsh nature of these lands is tempered by a delicate organic overlay that carries the stories of ancestral beings such as the jila (living water), rainmaker of the Great Sandy Desert. Daniel’s paintings are like satellite photographs that concentrate on typographical complexities while they also eloquently translate his people’s stories as told to him by elders. Daniel is a sophisticated colourist who utilizes both typical desert tones and saltwater hues to narrate the dual nature of the cultural heritage of Bidyadange with vibrancy and confidence.

Daniel Walbidi, Wirnpa and Sons 2014, 2014, acylic on linen

Daniel Walbidi is the winner of the 2014 Telstra General Painting Award worth $5000.


Daniel comes from a small costal community 250 kilometres south of Broome called Bidyadanga which is the traditional homeland of the Karrajarri people. Formerly La Grange Mission, it is where people were brought from the desert to help build cattle stations. This is how Daniel's desert parents came to live at the coast.


At the age of 16, Daniel actively sought to exhibit his work. He was painting on wood board, old doors, off cuts and anything he could find to express himself. He urged the elderly people in the community to start painting so that he could learn about his people's history and cultural background. He has since become initiated and continues to paint and exhibit his work around Australia.



daniel walbidi

2014 Telstra General Painting Award - $5000


Kieren Karritpul was born in Darwin and lives at Nauiyu Community, Daly River. Kieren attended lower primary school at St Francis Xavier’s in Nauiyu and upper primary at Wooliana School. Kieren comes from a long line of recognised artists with his mother, older brother and aunties all actively working in the field of arts. Kieren paints at home, but works and trains at Merrepen Arts. He is one of the leading artists in the art centre and is a highly talented young, emerging artist.


He is an exciting new artist and certainly one to watch out for in the coming years.


Judge's Comments


Kieren Karritpul’s work is strong and ambitious. It reflects his strong community ties and his mastery of the textile medium. The work speaks to his matrilineal heritage in an original and contemporary manner, reexamining and reinterpreting this tradition through masculine eyes. The entries to the inaugural Telstra Youth Award were of an exceptionally high standard and as the first Telstra Youth Award winner; Kieren has set a very high standard for years to come. 

Kieren Karritpuli, Yergi, 2014, natural ochre on stringy bark

Kieren Karritpul

2014 Telstra Youth Award - $5000


Garawan Wanambi

Telstra Bark Painting Award, 2014


Garawan Wanambi is the 2014 winner of the Telstra Bark Painting Award worth $5000.


Born in 1965, Garawan is a Marrakulu man.

His father, Munuparriwuy Wanambi, was one of the artists who worked on the famous Yirrkala Church Panels. After his father's death in 1973, Garawan was brought up by a Marrangu leader, Yanggariny Wunungmurra, and adopted to the Marrangu clan. Through this connection, Garawan paints Marrangu designs, the counterpart of Marrakulu from the other side of Arnhem Bay.

The Marrangu and Marrakulu are closely related clans who share many of the same sacred laws and mythologies. Both tell of the felling of monumental trees by the honey ancestor, Wuyal; the scouring out of a river course by the fallen log on its way to sea; a deluge of honey; floods and other apocalyptic events.


Garawan is married to Manini Gumana and he and his family continue to live and work at Gangan.


Judge's Comments


Garawan Wanambi uses the expressive qualities of his clan’s geometric patterns as a medium for the representation of restricted sacred areas in Arnhem Land.  This work contains a narrative that involves the mosquito ancestor, a symbol of aggression, who fights with spears and who is known for creating spiritual danger. In Marrangu the designs represents a place at the mouth of a river where fresh water boils up underneath the salt water. Garawan focuses on the changing waters, from turbulent to calm, with an intricate weave of pastel colours that give great depth to his work. Viewers will be mesmerized by the distinctive patterns and the lustrous surface of the painting that imitate the idea of light on water. 

Nici Cumpston

Telstra Work on Paper Award, 2014


Nici Cumpston is the winner of the 2014 Telstra Work on Paper Award worth $5000.


Born in Adelaide in 1963, Nici Cumpston, who is of Afghan, English, Irish and Barkindji (also spelled Paakantji) Aboriginal heritage, is a descendant of the Darling River people of northern NSW. She is also culturally affiliated with the River Murray people and lived for some years at Berri in the South Australian Riverland. A photographic visual artist, curator and former academic, Cumpston worked in the Photographics Department of the South Australian Police Force between 1990 and 1996, processing slide film relating to crime scenes, road accidents and forensic investigations. This proved to be a germinal experience for the young photographer. In a lecture given to students at the University of South Australia in October 2008, Cumpston revealed that this experience led to her taking, thereafter, an ‘investigative’ and ‘documentary’ approach in her own photography. So even when photographing scenes of great natural beauty, in a sense Cumpston takes a forensic approach. While working with the Police Department she also honed her technical skills and developed proficiency in processing and printing both colour and black and white films.


The major themes and sub-themes of Nici Cumpston’s photography relate to the current parlous state of the Murray-Darling river system, its lakes and tributaries and attendant ecology, and to the attempted erasure of prior Indigenous presence on those sites and the cultural amnesia accompanying this.


Judge's Comments


Nici Cumpston uses photography to convey a spiritual and cultural connection to her country, capturing a sense of mystery as well as the physical landscapes. Scar tree, Barkindji country straddles the line between the serene and the dynamic. Nici looks at degraded landscapes, which are surviving, and prospering, they become a metaphor for Aboriginal people and culture. She has transformed this black and white image through the colour that she vigorously applies, reinserting her presence into the landscape. With dynamism and spirit, colour bursts off the page and cannot be contained by the frame of the picture, similar to Indigenous culture and presence on country. 

Alick Tipoti, Kaygasiw Usul (Shovel nosed shark dust trail reflected in the heavens as the Milky Way) 2014, fibreglass, resin, wood, wax, rope, feathers, shells

Alick Tipolti

Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award, 2014


Alick Tipoti is the winner of the 2014 Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award worth $5000.


Alick Tipoti was born on Waiben (Thursday Island) in the Torres Strait Islands (north of Queensland's Cape York Peninsula). As early as 1990 he developed a deep interest in art and has since become a dynamic contemporary printmaker.

Tipoti looks to his elders for permission to retell, in linocut prints, narratives of earlier times when warrior heroes reigned. The large scale and visual density of his starkly contrasting black-and-white images capture the eye and absorb the mind, propelling the viewer into another space and time. These images are often inspired by traditional motifs, once incised on ritual artefacts.


Kobupa thoerapiese means 'preparing for war' in the Kala Kawaw Ya language of the north-western islands of the Torres Strait. The central image is of a Saibai Island warrior in a typically dramatic dancing posture, wearing the traditional regalia worn in inter-island conflict.


The figure is interwoven with a complex background design, embodying the spirit and meaning of a song about Aka (a legendary tame crocodile) disguised among ritual objects, and land and sea creatures. Through this representation, the artist reclaims the history of his people and asserts their deep links with their marine environment.


Judge's Comments


Alick Tipoti's life sized work Kaygasiw Usul (Shovel nosed shark dust trail reflected in the heavens as the Milky Way) is a literal representation of an Ancestral Totemic shark whose underwater trail forms the Milky Way constellation. This work is inspired by a 19th century Torres Strait mask in the British Museum but Alick has brought his contemporary representation of the mask to the fore. The complexity of the associated Ancestral story and mask, which is traditionally used by men only, is reflected in this multi-faceted work which Alick has bought together with many hidden and exposed elements. His use of fibreglass, shells, feather and resin in an innovative and seamless manner bring both the story and work to life. Within this work, Alick has brought the strength of his cultural connections to this very contemporary work.

boneta-marie mabo

People's Choice Award, 2014


Principal Sponsor

Boneta-Marie Mabo from Mackay in Queensland is the 2014 winner of the People's Choice Award.


Artist's Comments


In 2013 my Grandfather, Eddie ‘Koiki’ Mabo was featured on a stamp along with Shirley Smith, Neville Bonner, Oodgeroo Noonuccal and Charles Perkins. This was in honour of the significant contributions and tireless campaigning for the rights of my people. To honour my grandfather for the personal impact he had on my life I wanted to create my own stamps. The stamps are cut and mounted on a strip of backing paper to replicate an oversize stamp roll.


This is a visual representation of the legacy of culture and heritage that was left for me. Drawing inspiration from street artists Reko Rennie and the late Jean-Michael Basquiat, I created a modern interpretation of my cultural background and urban culture through this piece. This represents me as a proud contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artist.


bottom of page