Monday, 15 April 2013


Elea 'Albert' Namatjira was a western Arrernte man and a famous Australian artist who despite winning world wide acclaim for his art and being awarded a Queen Elizabeth Coronation Medal in 1953 and being a member of the Royal Art Society of NSW found in 1949 as a result of racial discrimination that he was refused a grazing licence and in 1951 was refused permission to build a home on land he owned at Alice Springs.

He died in August 1959 at Alice Springs Hospital but had lived up until then despite his financial earnings from his paintings in a fringe camp at Morris Soak on the outskirts of Alice Springs.

You can read more of  Albert's story here and it is a sad story in so many ways as you will see, a story of racial prejudice that caused great heartache to this man and his family.  A man who was at that time one of the greatest artists in Australia, but lived in abject poverty.   At one point in time he was solely responsible for the financial care of 600 of his people  ---

His legacy lives on today as he has family members who are also artists.  His grand daughter Elaine is one who has also made a name for herself with her great art works, and she was the inspiration for my poem 'Colour Me'.

The sketch I have used for an illustration was done by Neville Briggs, a fellow ABPA member.


She was  the cutest baby with a head of tight knit curls
and long lashes, black and lush on dusky cheeks.
Her mouth just like a rosebud in the sweetest shade of pink
and brown eyes like chocolate pools at you did peek .

Her smile was like the moon and stars and sun all put together
and  she loved  the world into which she'd been born.
A contented happy baby, held safe in her Mother’s arms
brown eyes surveyed the Krantji spring at dawn.

She was  a  little girl, devoid of wealth and fancy trimmings
and her home it was a very humble place.
But love  she had in plenty and nature provided toys
with which to play and she knew both her skin and race.

With love she grew, and came to know the culture of her people
all those  she knew in return loved her too.
There were no paintings on her walls and indeed none were needed
when outside, MacDonnell ranges captivated with hills blue.

She had a love of colour and a sharp eye for detail
and would paint her pictures of this magic land
in colours rich and vibrant, burning reds, and deepest indigo
 softest sage green of wattles and deep gold of desert sand.

She studied hard, learnt shape and form, used acrylics, oils, charcoal.
Water colours like Grandfather Elea once did expend.
And never once did she consider colour as a problem.
Nature made everything different, all colours merge and blend.

Now her paintings hang in galleries and homes across her nation.
They’re  the object of many people’s desire.
And each canvas tells a story – of men hunting, women gathering,
tribal traditions and stories, selling to the highest buyer.

And the little mission girl once devoid of wealth and trimmings
who saw beauty all around her now across her world does roam,
travelling in Jets displaying a loved symbol of her country
the Aranda peoples totem - that red Kangaroo of home.

Maureen Clifford ©

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