Winner announced for yapang Emerging Art Prize

Published on 01 August 2023


A powerfully symbolic stylised Hills Hoist adorned with woven flying foxes has taken out this year’s yapang Emerging Art Prize.

The artwork, by Muruwarri artist Dr Virginia Keft, is titled We were here long before the Hills Hoist, and celebrates connection to place and community.

Inspired by the flying foxes that inhabit her own neighbourhood, Keft created the work to “overwrite the Hills Hoist as a potent symbol of white Australian suburbia and reclaim the space with eucalyptus branches collected from Dharawal Country (Wollongong)”.

“Over the last several years, I've become more interested in experimenting and really expanding my weaving practice from the techniques that I've learned from Elders,” Keft said.

She added that the win “came as an absolute surprise”.

“I had no expectation and I’m just over the moon,” she said.

“It’s just been an absolute delight to win.”

The Museum of Art and Culture, yapang, will acquire the work as part of the prize, along with that of artist Shaun Allen, whose work, C.F.C, was highly commended by judges.

The judging panel also highly commended David Dennison’s entry, Serpent Dreaming.

Judge and award-winning Torres Strait Islander artist Toby Cedar said it was a unanimous decision to name Keft as this year’s winner.

“Her work was outside the box,” he said, adding: “The way she did her technique that was passed down was not just doing the same thing everyone else is doing,”.

“You have to have a strong story to make your artwork powerful.”

Held every two years, the yapang Emerging Art Prize is an acquisitive art prize developed to celebrate, promote and support emerging First Nations artists from across Australia.

An exhibition of all finalists’ works is on display at MAC yapang until 17 September.

Learn more about the yapang Emerging Art Prize

Caption: Artist Virigina Keft, with her artwork We were here long before the Hills Hoist (2022), raffia, Eucalyptus wood found on Dharawal Country, wire

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