He was awarded the 2020 Archibald Packing Room Prize for his powerful self-portrait.
Actor, writer and artist Meyne Wyatt made history yesterday as the first Indigenous person to win an Archibald Prize since it was first awarded in 1921.
The Wongutha-Yamatji man stunned audiences in a blistering monologue on Q&A earlier this year; a performance that captured the sheer exasperation of being a Black man in white Australia. Watch it again below:
Posing for press, Wyatt wore a mask reading ‘Justice for Aunty Sherry’, referring to Birri Gubba woman Sherry Fisher-Tilberoo's death in police custody last week. "Another one of our Mothers, Sisters, Daughters lost last week in Police Custody," the actor wrote on Instagram. Fisher-Tilberoo is the 445th Indigenous person to die in custody since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Wyatt's call for justice comes amid the country-wide Black Lives Matter protests in June inspired by a reinvigorated movement in the US.
The self-portrait started out as a COVID project before he was encouraged by his mother Susan Wyatt, herself a 2003 Archibald finalist, to enter. "I've been painting all my life, because mum is an artist,” he said.
Wyatt also paid tribute to the many unrecognised Indigenous artists that came before him. “I think it’s pretty incredible that I have been the first Indigenous artist… there’s a lot of artists that have come before over that 99 years, but I suppose our art and culture has been here for over 60,000 years. This is just a little speck,” he told SBS News. “Hopefully it opens the door for many more Indigenous artists being awarded these prizes,” he added.
The Packing Room Prize is judged by packing staff – who unpack and install the portraits – at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
“I want to thank the Art Gallery of New South Wales, their staff, [packer] Brett Cuthbertson and the packing room team. Most of all I want to thank my mum, who encouraged me to enter the Archibald Prize in the first place and gave me the courage to be so bold," he said.
"In a way, that is the essence of the painting and what it reflects – to be bold.”
The Archibald’s top prize will be announced on Friday the 25th of September. It has yet to be awarded to an artist with non-European heritage.
Main Image Credit: Q&A (ABC Australia) and Instagram (@meyneg)
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