"Getting this documentary out for the world to see will help us continue the work passed down to us by Albert. Help us to keep our culture strong, to teach the young ones and to celebrate our remarkable heritage into the future.”– The Namatjira Family
Can justice be restored to the Namatjira family?
From the remote Australian desert to the opulence of Buckingham Palace – this is the iconic story of the Namatjira family, tracing their quest to regain the copyright to their grandfather’s artwork.
Albert Namatjira (28 July 1902 – 8 August 1959), was a Western Arrente speaking Aboriginal artist from the MacDonnell Ranges in Central Australia.He was a pioneer of contemporary Indigenous Australian art and the most famous Indigenous Australian of his generation. Albert Namatjira is hailed as one of the greatest Australian artists of all time and a pioneer for Aboriginal rights. Yet the fruits of his legacy have been denied to his people, with the copyright of his works posthumously sold off. The Namatjira Project aims to restore those rights to his impoverished family.
Born and raised at a mission outside of Alice Springs Namatjira showed interest in art from an early age, but it was not until 1934 (aged 32), under the tutelage of Rex Battarbee that he began to paint seriously. Namatjira's richly detailed watercolours of the outback departed significantly from the abstract designs and symbols of traditional Aboriginal art, and inspired the Hermannsburg School of painting. He became a household name in Australia and reproductions of his works hung in many homes throughout the nation. As the first prominent Aboriginal artist to work in a modern idiom, at the time he was widely regarded as representative of successful assimilation policies.
Namatjira was the first Northern Territory Aboriginal person to be freed from restrictions that made Aboriginal people wards of the state. In 1957, he became the first Aboriginal person to be granted restricted Australian citizenship which allowed him to vote, have limited land rights and buy alcohol. In 1956 his portrait, by William Dargie became the first of an Aboriginal person to win the Archibald Prize. Namatjira was also awarded the Queen's Coronation Medal in 1953, and was honoured with an Australian postage stamp in 1968.
Namatjira started painting in a unique style. His landscapes normally highlighted both the rugged geological features of the land in the background, and the distinctive Australian flora in the foreground with very old, stately and majestic white gum trees surrounded by twisted scrub. His work had a high quality of illumination showing the gashes of the land and the twists in the trees. His colours were similar to the ochres that his ancestors had used to depict the same landscape, but his style was appreciated by Europeans because it met the aesthetics of western art.