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Ian Wayne Abdulla

1947 - 2011

Ian Abdulla was born in Swan Reach, South Australia in 1947. As a young boy he worked in the rural industry around the Murray River Region - picking tomatoes, grapes, apricots, oranges, and driving trucks, tractors and bulldozers. After 10 years on Gerard Mission he went to Adelaide for two years, before returning to the Murray to work with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. His country is Ngarrindjeri.

He completed a course in silk screen printing which resulted in his first works. His depictions are of significant events from his life along the Murray River - both historical highlights and family memories. He places text on his works which add to the overall power of the narrative. Through words and pictures, Abdulla discusses his experiences - fishing, ploughing the fields, cycling and playing footy.

Ian Abdulla began painting in 1989 and was awarded South Australian Aboriginal artist of the year in 1991. He was featured in the Adelaide Biennial Beyond the Pale, 2000 and is included in all major public collections around Australia. His work has also been shown in Spain, The Netherlands, Japan and the United States, positioning him as one of Australia’s most important Aboriginal artists. The major publication on the artist, 'Ian Abdulla: Elvis has entered the building', was published in 2003.

Comment by Lester-Irabinna Rigney from Flinders University, Indigenous Studies: 'One of the signifying practices of Ian's work is beautiful colour. And, indeed, the viewer can be seduced by these colours and forget and overlook, sometimes, the political message that is undoubtably and undeniably there. The messages from Ian's work are very much more important than the aesthetics. It tells of Indigenous peoples along the river being marginalised to missions, and so it tells also of the hardships of Indigenous peoples. It overcomes the silences that have been left in history. '