|Birth Day:||July 28, 1902|
|Death Date:||Aug 8, 1959 (age 57)|
As per our current Database, Albert Namatjira died on Aug 8, 1959 (age 57).
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He worked as a camel driver following being ostracized by his people. This afforded him the opportunity to see most of the Central Australian regions that would become the subject of many paintings.
He was born at Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission, Ntaria, near Alice Springs in 1902, the son of Namatjira and Ljukuta. They were Western Arrernte people.
His wife, like his father's wife, was from the wrong skin group and he violated the law of his people by marrying outside the classificatory kinship system. In 1928 he was ostracised for several years in which he worked as a camel driver and saw much of Central Australia, which he was later to depict in his paintings. He also worked as a blacksmith, carpenter and stockman, at the mission and at the surrounding cattle stations.
Namatjira was introduced to western-style painting through an exhibition by two painters from Melbourne, Rex Battarbee and John Gardner, at his mission in 1934. Battarbee returned to the area in the winter of 1936 to paint the landscape, and Namatjira, expressing an interest in learning to paint, acted as his cameleer and guide to show him local scenic areas. Battarbee showed him how to paint with watercolours.
In 1937 Friedrich Albrecht, superintendent of Hermannsburg, took ten of Namatjira's watercolours with him to a Lutheran conference at Nuriootpa, South Australia, and Battarbee put three of his paintings in an exhibition with the Royal South Australian Society of Arts in Adelaide. In 1938, Namatjira held his first solo exhibition in Melbourne.
He became the first prominent Aboriginal artist to work in a contemporary western style, and thus regarded as an example of assimilation. In 1944 he was included in Who's Who in Australia.
Subsequent exhibitions in Sydney and Adelaide also sold out. His work garnered wide acclaim, both in Australia and in other countries. Queen Elizabeth II became one of his more notable fans and he was awarded the Queen's Coronation Medal in 1953 and met her in Canberra in 1954. He was elected an honorary member of the Royal Art Society of New South Wales in 1955.
Not only did his own art become widely recognised, but a painting of him by William Dargie won the Archibald Prize in 1956, the first painting of an Aboriginal person to win the prize.
In 1957 the government exempted Namatjira and his wife from the restrictive legislation that applied to Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, and gave him a restricted form of Australian citizenship. At 55 years of age, with the passage of the Welfare Ordinance 1957 (NT), which amended the Welfare Ordinance 1953, Namatjira became an Australian citizen, with his adult children and other relatives listed as wards. This entitled him to vote, own land, build a house and buy alcohol. Although Albert and Rubina were legally allowed to drink alcohol, his Aboriginal family and friends were not. The nomadic Arrernte culture expected him to share everything he owned, even after they ceased being nomads. It was this contradiction that was to bring Namatjira into conflict with the law.
After being transferred to Alice Springs hospital, Namatjira astonished his mentor Rex Battarbee by presenting him with three landscapes, with a promise of more to come; a promise unrealised. He died soon after of heart disease complicated by pneumonia on 8 August 1959 in Alice Springs.
Namatjira has been the subject of numerous songs. Country star Slim Dusty was the first artist to record a tribute song, "Namatjira", in the 1960s, and Rick and Thel Carey followed up with their tribute "The Stairs That Namatjira Climbed" in 1963. Other tributes include John Williamson's "Raining on the Rock" from his 1986 album Mallee Boy and "The Camel Boy" from Chandelier of Stars (2005); "Albert Namatjira" by the Australian band Not Drowning, Waving, featured on their 1993 album, Circus, and Midnight Oil's song "Truganini" of the same year; the famous patriotic song "I Am Australian"; Archie Roach's song, "Native Born"; and the reconciliation song, "Namatjira", written by Geoff Drummond and included on the politically activist album, The Chess Set released by Pat Drummond in 2004.
Namatjira was honoured on postage stamps issued by Australia Post in 1968, again in 1993 with examples of his work, and in the Namatjira Centenary stamp series in 2002.
Two years before his death, part of Namatjira's copyright was sold to a company in exchange for royalties. After his death, Albert Namatjira's copyright was sold by the public trustee in 1983 for A$8,500, despite Namatjira's will leaving his copyright to his widow and children. The copyright was returned to the family's Albert Namatjira Trust in an October 2017 deal enabled by a donation by philanthropist Dick Smith, in the name of art dealer John Brackenreg, who was seen as having acquired the rights to Namatjira's art in 1957 in an act of exploitation.
The Namatjira Project was a community cultural development project launched in 2009 that included an award-winning theatre production by Big hART focusing on Namatjira's life and work.
The Northern Territory electoral division of Namatjira, which surrounds Alice Springs, was renamed in 2012 from MacDonnell, in honour of Namatjira.
In January 2013, two gum trees that featured prominently in Namatjira's watercolours were destroyed in an arson attack, while they were in the process of being heritage-listed, in an "appalling and a tragic act of cultural vandalism". In 2015, the Twin Gums site was again nominated for heritage listing.
On 28 July 2017, Google commemorated Namatjira's 115th birthday with a featured Doodle for Australian users, acknowledging his substantial contributions to the art and culture of Australia.
Vincent Namatjira, Albert Namatjira's great-grandson, is a well-known artist in his own right, winning the A$100,000 Ramsay Art Prize in 2019. Vincent's 2014 series, Albert's Story, reflects on Albert Namatjira's life and legacy. About the series, Vincent has stated: "I hope my grandfather would be quite proud, maybe smiling down on me; because I won’t let him go. I just keep carrying him on, his name and our families' stories." Vincent's work was also shortlisted for the Archibald Prize in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and won the prize in 2020.
Currently, Albert Namatjira is 119 years, 9 months and 25 days old. Albert Namatjira will celebrate 120th birthday on a Thursday 28th of July 2022.
Find out about Albert Namatjira birthday activities in timeline view here.