A rare Albert Namatjira painting has been donated to an Alice Springs Aboriginal renal dialysis centre, which hopes to use funds from its sale to ensure more patients can be treated closer to home.
The donation was made by the Ngurratjuta Aboriginal Corporation (NAC) to the Purple House, an Aboriginal-controlled organisation.
“We donated the painting to the Purple House so people like me can get back to country and do what is needed, stay with family and stay on country,” said Douglas Multa, a dialysis patient and board member of NAC.
Hundreds of Aboriginal people from the NT’s desert communities need life-saving renal dialysis treatment several times a week, and many need to travel hundreds of kilometres for treatment, which can be a traumatic experience.
“For me personally, it’s really hard to stay in big towns like Alice Springs, all of us dialysis people need something put out there for us,” Mr Multa said.
Aboriginal people in Central Australia suffer from kidney disease at a rate 15 times higher than the national average.
“Central Australia is really the centre of the universe for kidney failure, there’s well over 350 people in Central Australia who need dialysis,” Purple House chief executive Sarah Brown said.
She said patients usually required haemodialysis which was an arduous treatment received in three five-hour sessions per week.
‘Better than sister work’ at national gallery: Sotheby’s
In May, the NT Government agreed to build remote dialysis centres in Docker River, Papunya, and Mt Liebig, but the Purple House still needs to come up with the operating costs.
“I got a phone call saying, ‘Hey Sarah, Ngurratjuta board has met, we’d like you to come to the Araluen Arts Centre and choose an Albert Namatjira painting’,” Ms Brown said.
“And I thought, ‘I’m never going to have a phone call like that ever again’.”
The work, titled Mount Hermannsburg, last changed hands in 1989 for $15,000.
“The painting is a very rare depiction of Mount Hermannsburg, all the most valuable examples [of Namatjira’s work] sold in the past have featured Mount Hermannsburg,” senior consultant at Sotheby’s Art London Tim Klingender said.
“This work is in impeccable condition. The provenance is immaculate and it’s unusually large.”
The money raised from the sale of the artwork will help pay for nurses’ wages.
“In my opinion it’s better than the sister example in the National Gallery of Australia, it should be worth approximately $90,000,” Mr Klingender said.
‘Love for the old sick people’ behind donation
The painting was being held in trust for the public at Araluen Arts Centre in Alice Springs, and Mr Multa said the decision to give it away was not easy.
“It was hard. But in our hearts, we had love for the old sick people that are struggling to find money, that’s why we donated the painting,” he said.
Ms Brown said she had promised her patients she would get them all back to their home communities by Christmas, and then will keep Purple House’s doors open.
“In a world where there are not many good news stories about Aboriginal health or Aboriginal communities this is a stunning example of community leaders really trying to make their lives and communities better,” she said.