The finalists in this year's Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) exhibition to open 10 August at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) in Darwin have been announced, including Victorian Artist, Cassie Leatham.
A Gippsland artist, this is the first time she has entered the Telstra NATSIAA and been selected as a finalist. Excited about this success, she says her reason for entering the Art Awards is simple. "I was inspired to enter the NATSIAA as I wanted to share my passion for the environment and getting a strong message out to community through my artwork."
Talking specifically about the artwork she entered for the competition, she feels her works have a wider, universal appeal. "The artwork I have submitted is a sculpture piece called ‘Unearthed’ and it is a pipe clay shell and bone midden pot, it’s a pot that represents the sustainable living and environment that our old people lived before our time, how caring for country is important and to manage waste, the midden pot is like a keeper of past history and reminder that we must care for country for future generations. Opening the lid of the Midden Pot exposes history, just like shell middens all over country’s it shares story’s of hunting, gathering, belonging, family, history, recycling and passing down of knowledge."
Committed to her art and it's message, she says her works are one of a kind. "My artwork is unique because I have never seen sculpture works created this way. I use all natural materials I forage, clay from the banks of river, shells and bones, emu fat and sand and wattle sap to seal the work. I think my work speaks for itself: it’s a one off piece of creative passion for country and respect for history." Cassiespends days foraging native edible and medicinal plants, seasonal foods and using them in workshops across Victoria.
Cassie says she has been inspired by the impetus the competition has given her. "Having my work in the Telstra NATSIAA exhibition has given me strength and more passion to share my knowledge and encourage others on their journey. As this has been such a humble experience for me to get the call that I was nominated for his amazing award. I felt overwhelmed with excitement and I think this experience will help me mentor Koorie youth to encourage them to create and enter their works."
Her success is a huge feat in itself especially considering there were 68 finalists chosen from 280 entries submitted by First Nation artists from regional and urban areas across Australia. The finalist comprise of 24 candidates from the Northern Territory, 20 from Western Australia, 18 from South Australia and the remainder from Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.
Yet regardless of the NATSIAA outcome, Cassie remains confident of the direction of her artwork. "My focus now and for my future, is to continue everyday teaching culture, looking after country, educating people and living a fulfilled life with family and friends and my passion for my ancestors ways and to keep culture alive and strong for future generations and for my family to be proud of the Koorie woman I have become."
Committed to her art and it's message, she says her works are one of a kind. "My artwork is unique because I have never seen sculpture works created this way. I use all natural materials I forage, clay from the banks of river, shells and bones, emu fat and sand and wattle sap to seal the work. I think my work speaks for itself: it’s a one off piece of creative passion for country and respect for history." Cassie spends days foraging native edible and medicinal plants, seasonal foods and using them in workshops across Victoria.
Find out more about the NATSIAA exhibition here on their website.