Arts & Culture

Winner Koori Mail Indigenous Art Award 2021 Artist Gus Kelly with his winning work ‘Nobody Told Me There’d Be Days Like These…” Photo Rebecca Rushbrook

Winners annouced for first Koori Mail Indigenous Art Award 2021

Exhibition: 4 Dec, 2021 – 30 January, 2022. Lismore Regional Gallery.

Dunghutti artist and elder Gus Kelly has won the first Koori Mail Indigenous Art Award with his powerful drawing ‘Nobody Told Me There’d Be Days Like These..’ depicting the impact of colonisation throughout history to the present day.

Gus Kelly says of his work “This is our story – our Black History. The first bar starts at the beginning – when we roamed our Country from the mountains to the sea with no obstacles. The second bar shows the coming of the Europeans in their tall ships … The third bar is when they returned – this time to stay. The fourth bar is the squatters and homesteaders who just took our land and moved us onto missions.”

“The fifth bar shows the Europeans wanting more…This is when the massacres began, killing us and moving onto our land. The sixth bar? They put us on missions and give us food rations. If they decided we weren’t looking after our children, they took them away …The seventh bar is the tent embassy, the referendum, land rights, black deaths in custody; the beginning of the protests…The eighth bar is all the unmarked graves – too numerous to count – from the colonial massacres up to the present-day deaths.”

“But we were here, and we are still here. Always was and Always will be.”

Gus Kelly was born in Kempsey, New South Wales in 1948 and has been creating art since graduating from art studies at Kempsey TAFE College in 1997. Kelly won the 2021 Saltwater Freshwater Aboriginal art award and has been a finalist in various awards including the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Art Award and Parliament of New South Wales Indigenous Art Prize.

The prize’s judge Djon Mundine OAM FAHA said of Kelly’s work “Many people are putting themselves into art at an older age. Emily Kngwarreye, Rover Thomas, and Richard Bell are a case in point. Gus Kelly is such an artist. His work is very warm and charming, he uses children’s materials and compositions to tell his story. But, he draws adult stories and adult truths.”

Bundjalung artist Kylie Caldwell won the Bundjalung Art Award for her digital work ‘Mrs & Mr Watcher’, imagining what her ancestors would think of our modern, screen obsessed world. Kylie Caldwell is an experimental Bundjalung inter-disciplinary artist based in Lismore, NSW. The value of kinship, customs and ongoing custodianships of homelands are her core guiding principles.

Githabul artist Luke Close won the Innovation Art Award (open to Indigenous artists living in Bundjalung, Yaegl and Githabul country) for his painting ‘My Journey’ depicting the country he is connected to through family lines and totemic native animals including brush turkey, goanna, sea turtle and willy wagtail.

The Youth Art Award (open to Indigenous artists nationally from 12 to 24 years of age) was won by Djiru and Bundjalung artist Jahvis Loveday for his short film work ‘Bama’ using real captured footage of his brother and family to tell the story of a young Aboriginal boy reflecting on his fear of losing the magic of family and community after moving to the city.

The judge also Highly Commended Trawlwoolway and Palawa artist Louise Daniels for her painting ‘In the Forest of the Giant Myrtle’, Yiman, Gangalu and Gurreng Gurreng artist Anthony Walker for his painting ‘The Pass’ and Edwinea Paulson for her painting ‘The Sleeping Warrior’.

Naomi Moran, General Manager of the Koori Mail said “The Koori Mail is extremely proud to support the Indigenous Art Award, and excited to see the success of its first year.”

“We are thrilled with the response from Aboriginal and Torres Straight artists from around the country and overwhelmed with the submissions – across all mediums, that are telling the stories of our culture, our people and our history.”

“This year the Koori Mail celebrated 30 years as the voice of Indigenous Australia. There is such a strong connection between black media and our storytellers from the black arts sector, and we are committed to supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and creatives for many years to come in association with this award.”

“We congratulate every single entrant that shared in this Award, and feel honoured that their work is being exhibited here on Bundjalung country, the home of the Koori Mail.”

The Koori Mail Indigenous Art Award is a biennial award open nationwide to all artists of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, working in any medium. The award debuted this year and attracted more than 119 entries from established, mid-career, and emerging Indigenous artists from every state and territory, working across a wide variety of mediums.

Exhibition: The Koori Mail Indigenous Art Award 2021 exhibition is on display at Lismore Regional Gallery from Saturday 4 December 2021 to 30 January, 2022.

View the exhibition catalogue here

Koori Mail Indigenous Art Award 2021
Winner: Gus Kelly ‘Nobody Told Me There’d Be Days Like These..’

Highly Commended:
Louise Daniels ‘In the Forest of the Giant Myrtle’
Anthony Walker ‘The Pass’
Edwinea Paulson ‘The Sleeping Warrior’

Bundjalung Art Award 2021
Winner: Kylie Caldwell ‘Mrs & Mr Watcher’

Innovation Art Award 2021
Winner: Luke Close ‘My Journey’

Youth Art Award 2021
Winner: Jahvis Loveday ‘Bama’

Finalists for The Koori Mail Indigenous Art Award 2021
Jacinta Annandale, Chenaya Bancroft-Davis, Michael Baragud, Billy Black, Mia Boe, Theresa Bolt, Moorina Bonini, Joy Burruna, Melinda Cain, Kylie Caldwell, Theo Clarke, Luke Close, Mark Cora, Jingalu Craig, Louise Daniels, Charmaine Davis, Margaret Djarrbalabal, Janette Duncan, Penny Evans, Suzy Evans, Peter Faulkner-Roberts, Jenny Fraser, Zoe Golding, Danielle Gorogo, Amala Groom, Hannah Kaitap, Aneika Kapeen, Gus Kelly, Becca King, Ethan Kotiau, Oral Laurie, Jahvis Loveday, Kent Morris, Amelia Murphy-Taylor, Edwinea Paulson, Kobi Philbin, Eli Pietens, Kyle Prieto, Brian Robinson, Cara Shields, Beverly Smith, Dulcie Stevens, Sophie Taylor, Amarina Toby, Margaret Torrens, Anthony Walker, Daniel Warrulukuma, Bradley Webb and Jason Wing.

Lismore Regional Gallery acknowledges the Widjabul-Wyabul people of the Bundjalung Nation as the Traditional Owners of the lands and waters where the Gallery is located. We pay respect to ancestors and Elders past, present and future and extend our respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.