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Albert Elea Namatjira : for SATB choir

by Michael Atherton (1996, this version: 2014)

Albert Elea Namatjira


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Albert Elea Namatjira : for SATB choir / Michael Atherton.

Library shelf no. 782.55542/ATH 2 [Not for loan]

Work Overview

Albert Elea Namatjira (1902-1959) was a prolific artist. He was a Western Arrernte man from the MacDonnell Ranges area of Central Australia. He chose to paint in a recognisably western way, using watercolours for landscapes. His paintings epitomise a tension between two worlds, as indeed does the name Albert. It was a replacement for Elea, following his parents' adoption of Christianity. Namatjira encouraged a generation of artists to paint in a new way. But they never forgot their origins, their mythology and totems; for in a vividly bright and 'hot' Namatjira landscape, the Aboriginal eye is ever present. Namatjira paintings are bold; colours are rich and contrasting. Plains, ghost gums, chasms and gorges, depicting shifting and moving shadows dominate them. They 'sing' the grandeur of Central Australia and the stark contrasts of desert country.

This musical homage to Namatjira is a reworking of the 1996 composition commissioned by the Australian Voices Youth Choir. The text has been modified from the original version written in collaboration with Rosalind Croucher (Atherton), legal scholar and musician. It acknowledges Namatjira's Arrernte first name, Elea. The musical texture is concerned with the layering and juxtaposition of colour, the subtlety of the painter's use of shadow and a sense of bursting into light. "Wati kutjara been makem" comes from an anonymous artist mentioned in Joyce Batty's book Namatjira: wanderer between two worlds (1963), and translates as "Our ancestoral beings made the land".

Work Details

Year: 1996, this version: 2014

Instrumentation: SATB choir.

Duration: 7 min.

Difficulty: Medium


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