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A family fights for an Aboriginal artist's rich legacy

Campaign seeks the return of acclaimed watercolorist Albert Namatjira's lost copyright

Albert Namatjira's wife, left, father, right, and grandchildren look on as the artist paints. (Photo by Pastor Gross, Courtesy of the Strehlow Research Centre)

SYDNEY A racist injustice that blighted much of the life of late Australian artist Albert Namatjira may soon be at least partially rectified. Internationally esteemed during his lifetime, the Aboriginal watercolorist sold his lambent paintings of the central Australian desert around the world. He became one of Australia's best-known artists, and even had an audience with Queen Elizabeth II.

Lenie and Kevin Namatjira, Albert's grandchildren, meet Prince Charles at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. (Courtesy of Big hART)

Yet, as an Aborigine, widely treated as second-class citizens in earlier periods of Australian history, Namatjira was not considered an Australian citizen by the government of the time. He was not allowed to vote, own land, buy alcohol or move house without permission. Late in his life he was awarded citizenship, but that was no panacea; citizenship did not prevent the artist from being arrested and jailed when he bought alcohol for another Aboriginal man.

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