Warren H. Williams wins $50,000 2012 Red Ochre Award
Renowned Western Aranda country musician Warren H Williams has been presented the highly prestigious $50,000 Red Ochre Award at the 5th National Indigenous Arts Awards.
Awarded by the Australia Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board, the Red Ochre Award is generally considered the highest accolade in Indigenous arts, and Williams considers it a career highlight.
“To be mentioned in the same breath as some previous Red Ochre Award winners like Archie Roach and Mr Little is really humbling,” says Williams. “I’ve won a Golden Guitar at Tamworth and I’ve performed at the Arias but to be recognised by my peers like this is amazing.”
Williams’s latest album Winanjjara is recorded in Warumungu and Western Aranda, two of his maternal ancestors’ languages, and Williams is planning similar projects in the future.
“The plan as Red Ochre winner is to produce more songs in language, preserving languages like Warumungu, which is fading out fast,” he says. “I’m hearing that a lot of kids are now recording in Warumungu, which is amazing.
“We have to keep our culture, language and land alive and what a way to do it. Kids find it easier to learn the language by singing than by trying to learn it in school. They sing the songs without realising they’re learning their language,” says Williams.
Additionally, the Board presented a new award, the $20,000 Dreaming Award, to 25 year-old Western Sydney raised Gamilaroi and Torres Strait Islander playwright Nakkiah Lui.
Lui is excited by the opportunities the award will bring.
“I’m really honoured to be the first recipient of the Dreaming Award because it shows the Australia Council has such faith in me to create a really substantial piece of work that will hopefully lead to a lot of public discussion,” says Lui.
Lui intends to use the proceeds of the award to produce a play exploring the position of an Aboriginal Liaison Officer within the police force, a subject she considers crucial.
“The topic is something that needs to be explored due to deaths in custody and the fact our incarceration rates are going up. We need to look at these things and seriously critique them,” she says.
Lui also hopes the Dreaming Award will allow her to help other up and coming Indigenous playwrights.
“I have so much respect for the people who have won the Red Ochre Award and how influential they have been, not just to the Indigenous community but to Australia as a whole.
“I’ve been very lucky to have some amazing mentors who have given me a chance, so it would be great to be in the position to help others in our community tell their own story,” says Lui.
Meanwhile leading musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu and artist Jenny Fraser received fellowships from the Board, each worth $90,000.
The Australia Council for the Arts is the Australian Government’s arts funding and advisory body.