SYDNEY – A rare painting by Albert Namatjira, one of Australia’s most iconic Aboriginal artists, is to be sold to raise money for kidney patients in remote parts of central Australia. Indigenous people suffer kidney disease at 15 times the national average.
Albert Namatjira was a trailblazer. Born in 1902 near Alice Springs in Australia’s rugged Northern Territory, he did not start painting seriously until he was 32-years old.
His Western-inspired watercolors were a radical departure from traditional Indigenous art’s symbols and design, and he became a household name in Australia. The renowned Aboriginal artist was even featured on an Australian postage stamp in the late 1960s.
His famous painting, called ‘Mount Hermannsburg’, is considered to be one of the most valuable examples of his work. It has been donated by an Aboriginal group to a renal center in Alice Springs to raise money to help indigenous patients receive treatment nearer to home rather than travel hundreds of kilometers.
Sarah Brown, the head of The Purple House, the kidney unit that has been given the Namatjira painting, says it is an incredible gesture.
“So I got a phone call saying ‘hey Sarah, the Ngurratjuta [Aboriginal Corporation] board has met, we would like you to come to the Araluen Arts Center [in Alice Springs] and choose an Albert Namatjira painting.’ And I thought I am never going to have a phone call like that ever again. Central Australia is really the center of the universe for kidney failure, there is well over 350 people in Central Australia who need dialysis, which is usually hemodialysis, which is three days a week, five-hours a session,” said Brown.
Namatjira’s ‘Mount Hermannsburg’ painting is expected to fetch about $75,000 at auction.
The painter died in 1959 at the age of 57.
Australia’s Aboriginal people are by far the country’s most disadvantaged group, suffering high rates of ill health, poverty, imprisonment and unemployment. They make up about 3 per cent of Australia’s population of almost 25 million people.