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Lockhart River, QLD, Australia
Indigenous artist from Lockhart River on Cape York Peninsula in North Queensland. Hers is the most northern and remote settlement on the Australian coastline. Namok’s art career commenced in 1998 after she completed her Art Diploma at Cairns TAFE. Returning to Lockhart River, Rosella made her art at the Lockhart River Art and Cultural Centre, with the guidance and encouragement of Fran and Geoff Barker (founders of the Centre). She concentrated on her painting and also explored print-making. Namok’s work gained much public attention in 2000 when it was shown in Sydney in a sellout exhibition in the Hogarth Galleries. She has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants including the 15th Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award (1998); Lin Onus Youth Award – Fifth National Indigenous Heritage Art Awards (2000); Australian Bar Association-High Court Centenary Art Award (2003); Redlands Westpac Art Prize, Mosman Art Gallery (2003) and has witnessed her paintings entering the collections of every major Australian art gallery, as well as other Australian, international and private collections. As a backdrop to her success, a 1997 education and employment initiative for teenage children in Lockhart River provided a way of stimulating intellectual and cultural curiosity that generated self-confidence and self-esteem within the teenage community. Subjects relating to art and culture included Fundamentals of Painting, Aboriginal Performance Techniques, Traditional Body Painting and Acrylic Painting. A number of the artists formed the 'Art Gang’ and their art education continued at the Cairns TAFE. Upon graduating, these teenagers returned to the Lockhart River Art and Cultural Centre where they pursued their individual art practices.An important part of their student education was the concept of art valued as fine art rather than just craft, and they had received practical guidance regarding the exhibition, marketing and sale of work in the fine art market. They were even taught about appropriate dress for exhibition openings and the 'red dot’ system for sales – all of which helped to prepare the students for attending exhibitions in sophisticated galleries in big cities. Funding from the Queensland Government enabled some of Australia’s leading artists to visit the community to conduct workshops in the techniques of printmaking, painting, sculpture and cartooning. These artists included Gary Shead and Guy and Joy Warren. Aboriginal elders ('Old Girls’) from the Lockhart River community provided the glue that held this learning experience together through their guidance about the cultural knowledge and practices and their importance for understanding ones’ place in the world, as well as traditional rules relating to Indigenous clan groups.The Old Girls’ stories informed Namok of her place in the Sandbeach community. In Lockhart River region, the term 'Sandbeach’ gives common identity to a group of five coastal and inland language clans of indigenous people. These people collectively refer to themselves as 'Pama Malnkana’, meaning 'people of the sand beach’. After 1924 the separated lifestyles of the groups changed with the commencement of the Lockhart River Anglican Mission. A single settlement was created where people from different language and kinship clans lived together. The words 'before time’ in the artworks of the Art Gang refer to the time before 1924 when traditional culture and 'moieties’ prevailed. This word 'moiety’ derives from a Latin word meaning half and can refer to marriage partners, kin relationships and general guide to behaviour. In art, moiety can play an important role in determining the subjects that an artist may paint and it is embedded in much of Rosella Namok’s art, where it is referred to as the Kaapay and Kuyan moiety. Namok incorporates traditional aspects of her culture, such as the Kaapay and Kuyan moiety, into her paintings to prevent it from being lost to future generations. She says that everything is divided into two ways; people, land, story places, plants and animals – they belong one way or the other way and it is important to know which way. This is somewhat similar to the concept of the Yin and Yang in Chinese culture. As a young girl, Rosella Namok began painting by helping her father decorate the bodies of dancers with ochre paints at traditional ceremonies. These ancestral markings remained strong elements in her art, together with other traditional symbolic patterns learnt from her grandmother. She paints using her fingers to mark her thick acrylic paint layers, a method derived from her grandmother’s sand drawing, and this is her metaphorical connection to the land. Namok has a strong background in silk-screen printing and she has employed those techniques in her painting. Recurring foci in Namok’s paintings have been relationships between clan concepts of social organization, landscape and subjects of indigenous grief. The subject of traditional law is a recurrent theme in her work; her 'law’ paintings are large, suggesting the significance of traditional law.Namok expresses concepts of individual relationships and social organization using large scale motifs of Kaapay and Kuyan. The concept of social difference is worked through in her paintings in terms of young couples and old couples, right-way and wrong-way couples, and also in terms of para (white-fella) way and parma (Sandbeach or 'our’) way. The simplicity of the matching shapes is also its depth. The two elements of the Kaapay and Kuyan motif do not represent anything specific so much as, together, they represent their 'proper’ difference. Namok uses simple geometric shapes of ovals, squares, rectangles, angles and lines. The nature of the shape is not significant, however, the relationship between the two shapes is. These paired elements may represent moieties, traditional law, men and women, generations of people, cousins, insiders and outsiders, and so on. The rigid opposition of the geometric shapes is relieved by Namok’s use of underlying layers of colour and brushstroke to provide subtlety and nuance. Namok’s response to landscape is seen in her so-called 'rain’ paintings. Her motivation is not to depict the visual aspects of a subject but to convey her understanding and knowledge of it.Rosella Namok is married to Wayne Butcher and together they have two sons, Isaiah and Zane. After the death of Namok’s younger sister, Sonia, the couple adopted Sonia’s daughter. Namok works from a large shed/studio space attached to her home in Cairns. Writers: Holtsbaum, Jennie Note: Student, COFA, UNSW, Bachelor of Fine Art (Hons) Date written: 2008 Last updated: 2009
b. 1979
Painter, printmaker and sculptor and original member of the Lockhart River Art Gang, far north-east coastal Queensland. Her abstract work links the landscape, weather, people and their activities in Namok's local area. Namok has won numerous awards including the Lin Onus Youth Award at the Fifth National Indigenous Heritage Art Awards (2000).
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