Controversy caused when the judge, Perpetua Durack Clancy, decided not to award the prize, and that there would be no winner for the Aboriginal art category at the Shinju art awards in Broome, an area of Western Australia. The Shinju Matsuri board made the announcement after the the Judge made her controversial decision.
Michael Torres, an artist who attended the event, told the ABC that attendees were “gobsmacked” by Durack Clancy’s decision. “It’s so insulting to the artists there, where you’ve got an old non-Indigenous lady saying these Indigenous art works are not worthy of being awarded any prize.”
But Durack Clancy defended her decision not to award the prize, and told ABC once the ceremony was over that “there was absolutely nothing fresh or original” in the selection for the prize. “I looked at them carefully, and I felt I’d seen very similar ones before,” she said.
“I thought Broome might have been sophisticated enough to cope with some direct comment,” she later stated.
Durack Clancy is the daughter of the artist Elizabeth Durack, who sold her art in the 1990s under a fictional identity of an Aboriginal man named Eddie Burrup. the artist’s works were shortlisted in several Indigenous-only art prizes until the the truth of her identity was uncovered in 1997. Yet the artist continued to create and sell works under the same fictional Aboriginal identity.
The president of the board, Kel O’Neill, told Guardian Australia that all entrants were aware that a prize might not be awarded if the judge chose not to do so in any of the categories. The judges are independently appointed and while there might be more than one person on the panel in future, it depended heavily on costs.
O’Neill stated that judges had to be brought up from Perth and that the community based festival didn’t have a lot of money. He said the response to the controversy had been mixed.
The board gave a statement regarding the situation: “Whilst the outcome has caused hurt and disappointment to entrants in this category, all entrants had agreed to accept this condition as one of the stipulated conditions of entry.” It said the prize for the Aboriginal art category would be carried over to next year, amounting to $2,000, and that the rules of the competition would be reviewed.