Today is the 115th birthday of renowned Aboriginal Australian artist Albert (Elea) Namatjira.
Namatjira was born in 1902 in the Western Aranda (Arrernte) community of Ntaria (Hermannsburg) near Alice Springs. He began sketching as a young boy, and quickly took to painting the natural beauty around him in the bush. Namatjira’s family and community elders shared creation stories which further inspired his love of the sublime landscapes and vibrant hues in the Central Australian outback.
Namatjira’s watercolour landscapes earned recognition in Australia and around the world. He was awarded the Queen's Coronation Medal, honoured with an Australian postage stamp – and his portrait by William Dargie became the first of an Aboriginal person to win the Archibald Prize. Namatjira also inspired the Hermannsburg School in Alice Springs, teaching aspiring young artists to appreciate the Australian landscape.
Today’s Doodle is a tribute to Namatjira, created by his granddaughter, Gloria Pannka. The piece celebrates Namatjira’s iconic colour palette of gumtree green, ochre and plum. It is also a testament to his reverence for the land – depicting the desert, hardy foliage and the rolling hills between Hamilton Downs and the West MacDonnell Ranges in central Australia, close to Namatjira’s homeland.
“I am connected to that country,” says Gloria Pannka. “When I travel there I am connected through both my grandparents…. I feel moved when I am there. “
Namatjira story is the beginning of a watercolour legacy. His influence has lived for 80 years and has been passed down through six generations. Pannka’s father and uncles took the time to teach her skills, style and the Aranda (Arrernte) values that characterise her work.
“They taught us how to look at the country, and look after the country,” reflects Pannka.
Gloria Pannka is a founding Director of Iltja Ntjarra Many Hands Art Centre, an Aboriginal Corporation based in Alice Springs that supports the legacy of her grandfather Albert Namatjira. The Art Centre provides a studio space for contemporary members of the Hermannsburg School watercolour movement to explore their art-making practice, thereby maintaining the culture of these Western Aranda artists and promoting the ethical production and sales of Aboriginal art.
Today we thank and celebrate Albert Namatjira’s substantial contributions to the art and culture of Australia. Happy birthday, Albert!