Namatjira’s Sorrow

The dark Arunta,
Outlawed, outcast,
Seizes in pigment
The land he has lost.
Whiteman, arrogant,
Standing apart,
Masters the landscape
With guilt in his heart.
Prisoner and trooper
While we remain,
Each wears a handcuff,
Each drags a chain.

I came across this poem in John Ramsland’s essay Images of Albert Namatjira in Australian Popular Culture of the 1950s. The poem was written by a mysterious B.J.M. and published in the Overland journal in 1956.

And in the same year, William Dargie painted an Archibald winning portrait of Namatjira. Dargie’s seven other Archibald winning paintings were quite ponderous. I think this dignified Albert is one of Dargie’s better works.

| William Dargie, Portrait of Albert Namatjira, 1956 |

Artist Noel Counihan was a champion of free speech and made this allegoric linocut after Namatjira’s death in 1959.

| Noel Counihan, Albert Namatjira, 1959 |

Counihan was one of the few people who recognised Namatjira’s creation of an important new school of painting.

Julia Ritson

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