On This Day 28 July
By TheBoldAge. Published 2020-07-28
In 1858 fingerprints were first used as a means of identification; 1914 WWI began; 1923 Sydney Harbour Bridge construction began; 1943 end of coffee rationing; 1959 post codes started to be used in the UK. In 1902 celebrated Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira was born
Elea Namatjira (Albert Namatjira)
Elea was born on the 28th of July 1902 in a Lutheran Mission just outside Alice Springs; his name was changed to Albert at the time of his baptism after his parents, Namatjira and Ljukuta, adopted christianity. He was born into the Western Arrernte people.
In 1934 he was introduced into the world of Western Art when two painters from Melbourne visited the mission, one being Rex Battarbee who taught Namatjira how to paint with watercolours. In 1937 his work was taken to Adelaide for an exhibition and he had his first solo exhibition in Melbourne in 1938. He went on to wide acclaim throughout Australia and the Commonwealth. He was awarded the Queen's Coronation Medal in 1953, meeting the Queen in 1954 in Canberra.
One aspect of the Arrernte culture is that they are expected to share everything they own, and with Namatjira's wealth increasing through his art he at one point was supporting 600 people financially. He attempted to buy land in order to more easily support the extended family, eventually being sold land that was on a flood plain and unsuitable for building. Eventually he and his family took up residence in a shanty which has since become one of the town camps. One of Australia's most celebrated artists was now living in poverty.
It took until 1957 for the Australian government to give Namatjira and his wife a restricted form of Australian citizenship. He was allowed to vote, own land, build a house and buy alcohol. This right was only for him and his wife leading to the contradiction with traditional sharing and the law as he was expected to share everything he owned. He was sentenced to 6 months in prison for supplying alcohol to an Aboriginal; he served 2 months after public uproar.
He died in 1959 of heart disease in Alice Springs and at the time had painted about 2000 pieces. Prior to his death the copyright was sold to a company in exchange for royalties. This was overturned in 2017 and was identified as having been an act of exploitation. His work continues to be exhibited throughout Australia, and the world.
He has a strong legacy behind him with his great-grandson Vincent Namatjira was the recipient of the Order of Australia and continues the tradition of using art to be "representatives for our people and our country" as well as his grand-daughter Gloria Pannka.
Other events on this day
- 1858: first use of fingerprints as a means of identification
- 1902: Albert Namatjira was born
- 1914: World War I began with Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia
- 1923: construction on the Sydney Harbour Bridge began
- 1943: the end of coffee rationing in the US due to World War II restrictions
- 1959: postal codes started to be used in the UK
- 2005: IRA formally ordered end to armed campaign