Posted on February 28, 2012 - by sophia
The Namatjira project was officially launched on the 8th of August 2009, marking fifty years since internationally acclaimed watercolour artist and Western Aranda man, Albert Namatjira, passed away. The Namatjira project is a celebration of his life and legacy.
Run by award winning arts and social change company, Big hART, this project emerged as a legacy to the Ngapartji Ngapartji project, and work with Indigenous communities in the Central Desert region since 2005.
The Namatjira story came to the attention of writer/director Scott Rankin as a result of working with Elton Wirri, a kinship grandson of Albert’s. Elton began working on Ngapartji Ngapartji when he was 14 years old, and toured the country with the performance piece, receiving applause from audiences for his Namatjira-esque depictions of Western Aranda landscapes.
- Elton Wirri creating the scenic landscape during Namatjira at Belvoir, Sydney 2010.
From this seed, the process of developing the Namatjira project began. We began holding community storytelling sessions and creative development workshops with the Namatjira family, their fellow community members, artists and friends. Held in in Alice Springs and Ntaria (Hermannsburg), these included facilitated storytelling sessions, on-country painting trips, and performance and leadership workshops.
In August 2010 this process of creative development culminated in a community showing at the Araluen Centre, Alice Springs. Titled A Celebration of the Life of Albert Namatjira, the event included scenes from the theatrical work-in-progress, songs from the Ntaria Ladies Choir, a special guest appearance from Archie Roach, and an accompanying watercolour exhibition.
From there, the show Namatjira moved on to premier at Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre, in September 2010. Co-produced by Company B, one of Australia’s leading theatre companies and most prestigious venues, The season sold out and was a critical success, winning 2 Sydney Theatre Awards – check out our media page for reviews.
The accompanying watercolour exhibition was so popular at Sydney’s Birrung Gallery that Big hART was compelled to schedule a second exhibition at Damien Minton Annex Gallery.
In 2011, Namatjira was represented at the International Community Arts Festival in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. It then embarked on a 9 week tour through Melbourne, Geelong, Dandenong, Canberra, Wollongong and Lismore. A highlight of the tour was a large community event and webcast from Ntaria to celebrate the launch of the Ntaria Choir CD.
- In 2012 we embarked on an epic and wonderful 16 week national tour, including performing the show under the ghost gums at the old Hermannsburg Mission, where Albert Namatjira grew up. This tour attracted a Helpmann Award (2012) for Best regional touring production, and an Arts Hub Award (2012) for Contribution to the Australian community.
- 2013 saw an incredible tour to London, two professional developments with the Namatjira family artists and the documentary really clicking into gear.
- 2014 harnessed the success of the London tour, and resulted in 2 exciting exhibitions; Five Generations; the Strength of Namatjira’s Legacy at the Araluen Art Centre, Alice Springs andÂ Namatjira to Now; Five Generations of Watercolours in the Central Desert.Â Both exhibitions had a strong focus on the intergenerational significance of the watercolour movement.
Having enjoyed high profile, the Namatjira Project continues to work towards ensuring real and lasting benefit for the Namatjira family and Western Aranda communities.