Illiam Nargoodah and Cecilia Umbagai make their mark at NATSIAA

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Illiam Nargoodah grew up watching his dad, uncles and grandmother make conventional crafts. “It’s in the blood really,” the younger artist says. “Family and where I come from. My uncle used to make artefacts like traditional weapons, and my grandmother made coolamon, like a basket, then during NAIDOC Week we used to make bush artefacts.”

But when this conventional information clashed with modern influences, Nargoodah’s personal inventive observe was born.

“It was after watching the Lord of the Rings movie,” the 23-year previous says of his inspiration to begin making knives when he was 17. “I just like using my imagination. We have a station across the road and I go for a walk and look for the bits and pieces and the bits of metal. There is plenty there.”

WA Artist Illiam Nargoodah
Camera IconWA Artist Illiam Nargoodah Credit: Supplied

Nargoodah’s knives have now seen the Fitzroy Crossing man declare a spot as a finalist within the prestigious Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, which open in Darwin subsequent week. They are Australia’s high awards for Indigenous artists and WA is strongly represented, with 17 artists making the finals.

And whereas there are many acquainted names on the record — John Prince Siddon and Ben Ward are each finalists — a brand new, youthful technology are additionally being recognised for thrilling new work combining conventional and modern influences. NATSIAA curator Luke Scholes says there’s an rising cohort of younger artists, led by Nargoodah and one other WA artist, Cecilia Umbagai, who’re represented on this yr’s awards.

“Illiam is a classic example of someone who handcrafts these knives, handcrafting these blades and the handles, and then making a kind of art installation of them really shows the (broadening of) perimeters that most people have in their minds when you say Aboriginal art,” Scholes says. “What most people wouldn’t realise now, is that Aboriginal artists, like most artists around the world, are really willing to work well beyond the traditional mediums of art, of painted canvas.”

While Nargoodah is being credited with revitalising the artwork of knife-making, Umbagai has been portray on bark.

“You haven’t had a tradition of bark painting out in the Kimberley for some time and now you have young artists like Cecilia who are really interested, and desperate, in a way, to engage in some of those materials as the older people did,” Scholes says. “Those two are really the poster boy and girl, in a way, for the renewal of past traditions.”

Those two are actually the poster boy and woman, in a manner, for the renewal of previous traditions.

“It’s so different to working with paints and acrylic on canvas,” she says. “I have noticed that when I paint with the ochre it gives me more of a sense of how I feel. I kinda go back into a zone where I am out bush.”

Umbagai is a Worrorra girl and lives within the Mowanjum group, close to Derby. The Worrorra folks have a perception within the Wandjina, religious beings who created the Earth and the crops and animals that inhabit it. Much of Umbagai’s work is impressed by the Wandjina and she says her intention is to make use of artwork to share her information of the religious being with a wider viewers.

“I want to explain to the world, there is a lot of stuff behind the Wandjina, it’s not just a weird figure everyone sees,” she says.

“Lots of people suppose it’s an alien more often than not.

“They don’t actually get to know what the actual story behind them is.

Work by Cecilia Umbagai, Wandjina the Rainmaker. 2019, Ochre on canvas
Camera IconWork by Cecilia Umbagai, Wandjina the Rainmaker. 2019, Ochre on canvas Credit: Supplied

“Some folks are available in and they see the Wandjina and they get spooked out as a result of they see the large eyes or the weird-shaped nostril and I suppose by simply placing them extra on the market, folks perceive them and don’t suppose they’re scary and don’t suppose they’re aliens.

“They are a part of our tradition and a part of our understanding of life.”

Umbagai says her inclusion within the awards has been an “awesome experience”, and is a part of her broader ambitions to take her artwork from the West Kimberley to the broader world.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the Telstra awards because having a lot of my family being in and out of the awards, I feel like I am doing something with myself,” she says.

“I just want to be more out there.”

The winners of the NATSIAA can be introduced on August 8.

About the author


Richard M Arnold

Richard has been interested in doing something on his own from the days when he was in college. But, things didn’t favor him in the beginning, and he had to work for others. Later, he finally started NewsReaderweb as a news portal, and then never looked back. The website is gaining popularity every day. He puts all of his skills into his work and making his dream come true. He covers Entertainment news on this website.

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