DESCENDANTS of renowned Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira have made the long journey from Alice Springs to London.
Slightly jet-lagged, and affronted by the London cold-snap, Kevin Namatjira and Lenie Namatjira, both grandchildren of Albert Namatjira, met with Australian Times at London Southbank Centre where their watercolour paintings are exhibited this week.
Lenie Namatjira remembers as a child watching her father, and uncles painting watercolour landscapes and asking them what they were doing.
“They would reply, ‘We’re painting so we can buy you lollies’,” she recalls with a wry smile.
Lenie’s work, along with paintings by other members of the Namatjira family and fellow countrymen, portray the beauty and richness of their homeland Hermannsburg and the surrounding areas.
These landscape paintings are in the same vein as Albert Namatjira’s art works, and have continued to support the family as a source of income and community.
Despite the common thread, every artist displays their own unique use of colour and light. Some paint from memory, but where possible many paint directly from the different landscapes they see.
Elders in the community pass on the skills and techniques to the next generation, providing them with their “lifeblood”.
The sense of community is strong, and this visit to London is the first exhibition for the Namatjira family outside Australia.
It is a big sacrifice to be so far from their family as they still have their usual responsibilities back home.
Normally when touring Australia they have a rotation of artists who take turns sharing Albert Namatjira’s work, and their own with artists and communities around the country.
On this occasion a large group of artists and performers have accompanied Kevin and Lenie for a tour, which sees the the exhibition accompany Trevor Jamieson’s performance of Namatjira — also at the Southbank Centre.
Between shows and interviews the artists have been busy running workshops in schools, and at the Royal Academy; in conjunction with the exhibition Australia.
Children as young as one-year-old have joined in the watercolour workshops.
The workshops in London have been subdued compared to one particular workshop back in Australia where Lenie describes how the children were so cheeky “they started painting the Pajero”.
The Namatjira’s work is testament to the value of intergenerational sharing of culture and the need for government funded spaces to run these events.
This exhibition is truly a one off opportunity to see the legacy of one of Australia’s greatest artists featured in one of the world’s cultural capitals.
Living Watercolours – The Namatjira Family Legacy, a contemporary watercolour exhibition, presented by Palya Art is at the Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer until Friday 29 November. Click here for more information.
Image 3 by Jasmine Bilson.