The Telstra Prize

I’m only just now getting around to writing about last week now – it’s been so busy! So the Telstra Prize. That happened! On those two beautiful pieces of Belgian Linen (there’s this huge roll of it at the art centre – and yes I’ve totally wondered what it would be like to wrap with – even in it’s natural state this stuff is art on cloth) this stuff was incredible – and on those two pieces, I told my story. My story of recconection and the duality of grief and joy. I’ll be honest – I know I have absolutely zero chance of winning – but I guess that’s not really what it’s about. And something Skye said really resonated with me – as a professional artist, it’s my job to put myself out there and tell my story – that’s my job. To tell my story. So I created my pieces and I took them down to the art centre. I let go of the fear that my work isn’t strong enough to stand next to the works of the Barbara Moore’s of the world – and I just embraced the fact that I AM an emerging Aboriginal Artist with a story to tell, and this is my place to tell it. I packed up the car and the kids early I the hopes that I could sneak down early, before I started work at the school making the lunches, so that none of the other artists would see it. I got down there (did I tell you I can drive a manual now?!) and Skye wasn’t there – it was all locked up. I was too early. So I took the kids home for a bit and then went back – still closed. Now at this point the thought of dragging the kids all the way back and forth (all of one street; it took me longer to put the kids in the car than actually drive) made me want to stick three corner jacks in my eyes (and we have plenty of those to go around!) so I decided to just go to school, get the lunches done and then go back after. When I got down there – there must have been 20 Anangu sitting outside. I’ve never seen so many people sitting outside of the art centre than on a day that I want to sneak my paintings in under the radar. And there was some massive name artists there. I pulled out one of the two pieces, and everyone turned to look. One of the ladies – a famous artist, looked at my artwork and then looked at me; “nyuntu?” – you? I nodded meekly – “uwa” – yes. She smiled broadly; “wiru” – good. And then everyone came to see – and they all smiled and gave me thumbs up and nodded. Another famous artist motioned to an even famouser (that’s definitely a word) artist and she looked and gave me a big smile and thumbs up. Then I got it inside and all the ladies, hunched over their work, studiously painting, looked up. They smiled, whooped, thumbs up’d and told me how wiru it was. I was being celebrated by some massive names in Aboriginal art. Now perhaps it’s because they hadn’t seen my work, or because it’s different to the styles up here. Perhaps they are all insanely polite and when I left they looked at each other as if to say “what was THAT!” But it was amazing. That mist, that heady, thick, 60,000 year old mist that descends on me whenever I come to Tjala – that mist that reminds me that I’m surrounded by giants. By important women with critical information to share – that mist that reminds me how small I really am – cleared just enough for me to  wonder if those women, these giants; if they want young artists to stand on their shoulders every now and then, so that our stories continue to be told, long after they’re gone. I may not have a chance at winning- but right then, that moment, that feeling of acceptance and inclusion – was worth more to me than any award. And that’s what I’ll take with me from this experience more than anything else. 




6 thoughts on “The Telstra Prize

  1. That is some stunning artwork. 🙂 Amazing! Thank you for sharing this here.

    I love that if you looked from far away you would think these were pretty similar and it isn’t until you get up close that you start to notice the differences between them.


  2. What a beautifully written, honest piece. I loved the mist image. And the sense that we build on the lives we see around us. Finally, the modern colours and swishes like gum leaves. Magic.


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