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 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.