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Yolngu artist Warrkatja wins inaugural Magabala illustrator award

Yolngu artist Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr has won Magabala Books’ inaugural Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award, reports the Australian.

New to illustrating books, Warrkatja is a painter whose work draws on traditional art practices and focuses on the creation stories, ancestral spirits and totems of his culture and community in northeast Arnhem Land.

He receives $10,000, a mentorship and the opportunity to illustrate a children’s story by Sally Morgan. Magabala will fly a mentor to Gapuwiyak—the small community where Warrkatja lives—so that both Warrkatja and Morgan can collaborate with the mentor on the book, which is expected to be released next year.

Magabala publisher Rachel Bin Salleh told the Australian that Warrkatja’s ‘extraordinary’ entry into the competition was the ‘hands-down’ winner.

‘My first thought was he’s an artist (not an illustrator), just from how he’s interpreted the text,’ said Bin Salleh. ‘In part of Sally Morgan’s text she talks about a “sleeper” being close by, which he’s interpreted as a buffalo—that was just a really wonderful application of someone’s surroundings, and what they see every day, as a new interpretation on text. That really caught my imagination.’

Bin Salleh said that, with the new award, Magabala hopes to foster ‘sustained growth of Indigenous illustrators for Australia, with the aim being to have them move on to bigger, more mainstream, publishing companies’.

As previously reported by Books+Publishing, Magabala announced the biennial award in July 2017. The award is funded by the Kestin Family Foundation.


Category: Local news