Monday, October 9, 2017

THE NAMATJIRA STORY


These unique ceramic pots come from Ntaria, a former Lutheran Hermannsburg Mission located 130 kilometres west of Alice Springs, right in the centre of Australia.

The potters are all women, who have develped a distinctive hand-coiled style, often topped with moulded figurative lids.  They display the spectacular and significant places around Ntaria, and document their culture, history and daily lives.



Pottery is not a tradition of the Aboriginal people of Australia.  However, when in 1982 the Arrernte people took responsibility for the mission, their Pastor Nahasson Ungwanaka sought to establish a means of livelihood for his people.
He organised formal instruction in ceramics and established the Hermannsburg Pottery.  The vibrant pottery has been exhibited to worldwide acclaim.

The emergence of the pottery, as well as the Hermannsburg School of landscape painting by the Arrernte people, came about because of one man, the famed Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira [1902-1959], mentioned in a previous post.

William Dargie, Australia, 1912-2003 'Portrait of Albert Namatjira' 1956. QAG
This painting of Namatjira by Sir William Dargie won the Archibald Prize for portraiture in 1956 and has become accepted as the iconic image of Australia's most recognised Aboriginal artist of his generation.

Google Image: Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission


Born in 1902, Namatjira, was raised on the Lutheran Mission at Hermannsburg and showed interest in art from an early age.  However, it was in 1934 that he began to paint seriously after seeing an exhibition of watercolour landscapes by Melbourne artist Rex Battarbee who made painting exhibitions into the region.  
Albert asked for painting lessons, and quickly flourished as a watercolour painter, developing his own unique style.

Above: Albert Namatjira 'Central Mount Wedge', 1945.  Below: Rex Battarbee 'Central Australian landscape' 1936

His landscapes appeared 'conventional' but he painted his own country, his way, richly detailed watercolours of Central Australia which differ significantly from the abstract designs of traditional Aboriginal art.

In the 1940s and 1950s he achieved great fame and popularity, with prints of his landscapes found in homes across Australia.  In 1953 he received the Queen's Coronation Medal, and met Her Majesty during her 1954 Australian tour.

Albert Namatjira 'The Finke River Gorge at entrance to Glen Helen' c. 1945-53

In 1957 Namatjira and his wife Rubina were granted Australian citizenship (denied to Aboriginal Australians generally until 1967).  This meant he was allowed to vote, and buy alcohol, but his life remained heavily controlled by the authorities, and sadly became much more difficult for him.  He was cheated in land dealings while attempting to make a home for his family, and by the late 1950s they were located in a camp at Morris Soak, a dry creek bed outside Alice Springs.  He was living in poverty, and died shortly after a heart attack in 1959.

Google Image: Albert Namatjira

His paintings are held in Collections around Australia and the world, and while they fell out of favour for a while, they are now acknowledged for their unique Australian style and beauty.  He taught his sons to paint as well as other kin, and they went on painting expeditions together.  In 1950 his niece Cordula Ebatarinja joined them, becoming one of the first Aboriginal women artists recognised by the art world.

The unique painting style of the first generation has been retained by their descendants, and the Hermannsburg School of landscape painting continues today.  After years of exploitation, in 2004 they formed the Many Hands Art Centre in Alice Springs for the continuation of this art tradition.


The Namatjira Story is currently on exhibition in Qld Art Gallery.





The Royal Collection of Her Majesty contains a number of Namatjira paintings.


As good a reason as any to share this recent sweet photo of a visit to Balmoral by the Australian Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove.
Note that famous painting of Queen Victoria on the wall behind.



Have a good week.

XXXX




21 comments:

  1. Dear Patricia I love those pots - the colours, the shapes, the figurative lids, and the way in which they document the culture, history and daily lives of the Ntaria people.
    What a very sad tale about the talented Aboriginal painter Albert Namatjira. He would not be treated in such an inhuman way today.

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    1. Dear Rosemary, I love the pots too, and am always happy when they are put on display. Yes, the Namatjira story is so sad, and I tried to reduce it to the essentials. It was quite tragic. The family have no control of the Estate or copyright to this day.

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  2. This is such an interesting post, Patricia. I loved seeing the pottery, it reminds me somewhat of Native American pottery from the area around where I live, interestingly. I especially liked the bird-painted one, I think they might be owls or hawks? Sad about the painter. I'm sorry to hear about how he was treated. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. I thought you might like the pottery Jennifer, and it certainly does have some resemblances to the pottery pieces I lovingly brought home from our trip to New Mexico. Yes, owls and hawks, we have both those birds in Australia, as well as the kookaburra holding a snake (which they do!) A sad story, but his reputation is now being treasured and preserved.

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  3. LOVE those pots and LOVED your post Trish.....beautiful!

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    1. Thank you Michelle, you will have to come on one of my tours one day - coffee to follow! :)

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  4. What wonderful pots. I really enjoyed this post and the history of the mission and the artist was very interesting. I'm happy to hear/see that the artist is getting some recognition but sad to read about his life.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it Darla. We all love those pots! It is good to know that a special artistic tradition has arisen as Namatjira's legacy.

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  5. The ceramic pots are interesting. I love that owl one. That white flower with the brownish spots is beautiful. I see these flowers around here, and they are a favorite of mine. Thanks for sharing a bit of the Namatjira story with us, Patricia.

    Wishing you sweet October days.

    love, ~Sheri

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    1. I like the owl pot too, so clever isn't it. I don't know the name of that white flower, but am interested to know that you have it growing over there too. It reminds me a bit of the Canadian trillium, but like a double one.

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  6. Trish,

    You always managed to expand my horizons in art and cultrure. I don't know Albert Namatjira, but love his work! He has a unique eye, and I like the colors he uses.

    I also love hearing what Australia's present relationship is to the Queen of England. Still her subjects. But to England, only a former colony and independent. Am I right?

    I hope you're enjoying your spring!

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    1. I like those colours too, very much like Central Australia.
      The Queen is Australia's Head of State, and the Governor General is her representative in Australia. Australia became an independent Federation in 1901 but remains part of the British Commonwealth. I think this is the same as Canada. The ties are quite strong, and royal visits occur just about every year. From time to time there are suggestions of becoming a Republic, but it seems unlikely to happen while the Queen is alive.

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    2. I think at the president time Americans might be willing to trade heads of state with Australia, but I don't think Australia would go for such a deal ;)

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  7. That is such a sad story, Patricia, I could cry for Namatjira. Awful to think his paintings were so popular and yet he died in poverty. Those pots are stunning too! Thank you for showing them to us!

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    1. Hi Val, exciting news, as the Namatjira copyright has been returned to the family on Friday. I will write another post about it in a few days. Glad you liked the pots too.

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  8. Hi Patricia what a wonderful post,so much thats interesting,thankyou for sharing xx

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    1. Hi, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I think we will see more of Namatjira's work from now on, after the resolution of the case last Friday.

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  9. Hi Patricia....
    You always show us such interesting art work...fabulous!
    Love your flowers too !๐ŸŒธ
    Enjoy your week...
    Cheers!
    Linda :o)

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    1. Hi Linda, glad you enjoyed. Have a good week.
      We are off to Sydney :) Cheers

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  10. This is such an interesting post, I enjoyed learning about the history and the artist. I've never seen anything like these ceramic pots, they are beautiful.
    Amalia
    xo

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    1. Everyone loves those pots! They are so unique and wonderful to see. Happy days Amalia x

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