Fitzroy Crossing artist Ngarralja Tommy May wins prestigious $50,000 NT art prize
An inspiring Fitzroy Crossing creative is grinning from ear to ear after emerging as the big winner at a prestigious art ceremony in the nation’s north.
Wangkajunga and Walmajarri man Ngarralja Tommy May was honoured as the top entrant in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards on Friday for his piece Wirrkanja.
Born in Yarrkurnja in the Great Sandy Desert and now based in Fitzroy Crossing, May’s artistic career spans back more than three decades that also saw him sit on the Northern and Kimberley Artists board of directors for 21 years.
He said his winning piece, which judges believed symbolised the height of his creative powers, was inspired by his country and past.
“This work is Wirrkanja, it’s the country where I lost my brother, its jilji(sand dune) country and flat country,” he said.
“There’s a jilathere (living spring waterhole). It’s not far from Kurtal, over two sand dunes.
“It’s in flood time, the water runs down the jilji. This is my country and my family’s country. This is my job, it’s a good job.”
May, pictured, who is no stranger to the awards, said he was proud to be recognised as the best of the 65 entrants, which is accompanied by a handy $50,000 prize.
“Thank you. At last. I feel proud. I’ve been trying all my life, all the time second, fourth, last, sometimes nothing,” he said.
“But I got it now, today. My days, my time this year, I’m the winner. At last.”
Among the six other winners at the NATSIAA was Cecilia Umbagai, from Derby, who was presented with the Emerging Artist Award.
The 23-year-old Worrorra talent lives in the Mowanjum community, 10km from the Kimberley town, and said she had painted all her life and learned from her elders.
The awards are open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from around the nation each year.
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