New Aboriginal Art Star featured at Shalom Gamarada

September 21, 2011 by Arts Editor
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Lydia Balbal will make her first trip to Sydney in September to attend the seventh annual Shalom Gamarada Indigenous Art Fair. It’s a long way from Bidyadanga, the remote coastal town south of Broome where she grew up, especially for a woman whose first contact with white people came at the age of 24. 

Lydia Balbal

“The most mesmerising new star of western desert art,” is how Walkley Award-winning journalist Nicholas Rothwell described Lydia Balbal in The Australian in 2008. Since then, Lydia’s work has been fought over by public art galleries and private collectors alike…

Within a year of walking into a Broome art gallery aged about 50 and declaring herself ready to paint, this acclaimed artist’s work was the subject of a solo exhibition. It is this kind of self-confidence that prompted Nicholas Rothwell to further describe Lydia in this way: “Balbal is a strong, extreme personality. The new course her life has taken is only the latest in a series of startling twists and turns. ‘I know I’m the best,’ she says, disarmingly, ‘because I’m a bush woman! Born in the bush: I grew up there.’”


This year’s Shalom Gamarada fair will exhibit the work of more than 25 Indigenous art centres and will showcase the works of Lydia Balbal and the artists of the Yulparija people of Bidyadanga. Sydney art lovers will have the unique opportunity to see a wide range of artists from diverse communities exhibited in one place.


The annual Shalom Gamarada exhibition raises funds for its scholarship program for Aboriginal students to study medicine at UNSW.  Shalom Gamarada is a partnership between Shalom College, a residential college at UNSW, the Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit in the university’s School of Public Health and Community Medicine and the Nura Gili Centre for Indigenous Programs at UNSW. Former President of the AMA Dr Bill Glasson has said that an increase in the number of Aboriginal doctors could make the single biggest difference to Indigenous health, and the Shalom Gamarada scholarship program contributes significantly to making this vision a reality.


The unique collection of art available for purchase at the show is worth more than $1 million and includes 100 hung works and more than 250 unstretched pieces. Prices range from $1500 to $50,000 for curated, investment-quality works, while unstretched pieces give artlovers the opportunity to buy quality art at more modest prices ranging from $150 to $10,000.


In another exciting development, an inaugural $15 000 prize for the best group of works from an Art Centre will be awarded at the exhibition for the first time. The Shalom Gamarada Indigenous Art Fair Award is sponsored by Xstrata Coal.

The exhibition is at 111, Queen St Woollahra and runs until Sep-25.

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