UNSW Art & Design graduate, PhD candidate and scholar Brenda L Croft is one of the four winners of the Australia Council’s prestigious National Indigenous Arts Awards presented at the Sydney Opera House on May 27. 

Brenda L Croft, who is a member of the Gurindji/Malngin/Mudpurra/Bilinara peoples from the Northern Territory of Australia, will receive one of two Fellowships providing $45,000 a year for two years to create a major project: Solid/shifting ground. The other Fellowship recipient is interdisciplinary artist Reko Rennie who completed a print residency at UNSW Art & Design’s Cicada Press in 2012.

Solid/shifting ground is an experimental, multi-media, collaborative art project building on Croft’s research. Croft has been collecting audio, film and stills on local sites and personal memories associated with the journeys of her father and his contemporaries from the Stolen Generations.

‘These walking/mapping/memory-scapes are being created through performative, embodied sound/visual time/space representations,’ she explains.

Solid/shifting ground extends Croft’s PhD work since 2012 as an ARC Research Fellow at the National Institute for Experimental Arts at UNSW Art & Design.  She will stage a collaborative exhibition with Karungkarni Art and Culture Aboriginal Corporation at the UNSW Galleries in September 2017 followed by a national tour to select university art museums. 

Croft describes this Fellowship as one of the highlights of her extraordinary career.

“It is an acknowledgement of my work over the past three decades which has led me to what I am doing now and will provide me with much appreciated creative freedom over the next two years.’

And she’ll finally be able to buy some much-needed new equipment to capture and edit her images.

This year has already been a big one for Croft: she has received a UNSW Art & Design Postgraduate Award, and the University of Western Australia’s Berndt Foundation Postgraduate Award.

In 2013, she was immensely proud to receive the Deadly Award for Visual Artist of the Year, because “it came from the community”.  She regrets the Deadlies are no more and remembers fondly that the first were held at Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative two decades ago.  Brenda was one of 10 Indigenous artists who founded that influential Co-operative and was its general manager from 1990-1996. 

Awarded a Master of Art Administration from the UNSW Art & Design in 1995, Croft received an Alumni Award from UNSW in 2001. In 2009 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Visual Arts from the University of Sydney. Recently, she was curatorial advisor on We are in Wonder LAND: New Experimental Art from Central Australia currently on at UNSW Galleries. 

Other recipients of the Australia Council’s annual National Indigenous Arts Awards include prominent artist, activist, intellectual and educator Dr Gary Foley awarded the Red Ochre, and singer-songwriter and front man of The Medics, Kahl Wallis, who received The Dreaming Award.

You can read more about Brenda Croft's research project Solid/shifting ground in the UNSW Newsroom.