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Namatjira Project

From the remote Australian desert to the opulence of Buckingham Palace – this is the iconic story of the Namatjira family, tracing their quest for justice. Albert Namatjira was the first Indigenous person to be made a citizen by the Australian Government. The founder of the Indigenous art movement in Australia, his artworks gave many Australians their first glimpses into the outback heart of the country. He was widely celebrated, exhibited globally, and introduced to Queen Elizabeth.

However, Namatjira was caught between cultures – paraded as a great Australian, whilst treated with contempt. He was wrongfully imprisoned, and in 1959 he died a broken man. In 1983 the Government sold the copyright to his artworks to an art dealer. Today his family fight for survival, justice and to regain their grandfather’s copyright.

This is one of Australia’s most potent stories – illuminating the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people today, in Australia and indeed globally. Albert Namatjira was the first Indigenous person – an Aranda man – to be made a citizen by the Australian Government. This was a time when Aboriginal people were still considered flora and fauna – some 170 years after white people arrived in Australia. He was an extraordinary man founder of the Indigenous art movement in Australia, exhibited globally, and introduced to Queen Elizabeth. Albert was taught to paint by white artist Rex Battarbee when they met in the 1930s at Hermannsburg Mission, in the Central Australian desert. Their close friendship was to have a decisive impact on Australian art, and by the 1950s Namatjira had become the most famous Aboriginal person of his time.

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