96-year-old wins top indigenous art award

By AAP with AG Staff 11 August 2011
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Dickie Minyintiri, who only began painting five years ago, has taken out Australia’s premier indigenous art award.

DICKIE MINYINTIRI, born in Pilpirinyi, Western Australia, was on Thursday named the winner of the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art award.

Sitting in a wheelchair, his white whiskers poking out under his hat, a frail Dickie – who finds it difficult to speak – managed a quick smile after being named the winner for his piece titled Kanyalakutjina (Euro Tracks).

The artwork shows tracks of kangaroos, dogs and emu coming to a water hole to drink, and each layer and line is a memory Minyintiri has of a journey he has undertaken.

Good news

Minyintiri lives in Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands in remote South Australia, and Alison Milyika Carroll from his community says she was very moved by the recognition. “We are also very happy that people are seeing the strong art-making of the APY land art centre,” she says.

Dickie Minyintiri with his winning work, Kanyalakutjina (Euro tracks).

The story of Minyintiri’s win is good news for the APY community, which in the past has been linked to high rates of petrol sniffing and child abuse.

Minyintiri only began painting four or five years ago because he didn’t have any time before that, says Julian Green, who works with the winner: “He has been a very busy man and has worked his whole life…He has been a sheep herder, he was a policeman for a while and a shearer.”

Spontaneous and multi-layered

Being so old, Minyintiri only paints six to eight artworks a year, and nearly all are large canvases said to suit his style.

Judges of the award said Minyintiri’s painting was a “spontaneous and multi-layered” expression of the winner’s relationship to his country…The opacity of harmonious, pale pigments and the dynamic reiteration of ancestral tracks through country, create a shimmering surface that radiates energy and spirituality,” they said in a statement.

Minyintiri will receive $40,000 for winning the award. Other artists who took home category prizes at the awards were Ricardo Idagi (new media), Dennis Nona (works on paper), Raelene Kerinauia (bark painting), Gali Yalkarriwuy Gurruwiwi (three-dimensional award) and Bobby West Tjupurrula (general painting).

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