"Albert was this amazing man creating port holes of image into central Australia through which suburban families could climb out and glimpse the heart of country for the first time."
Playwright Scott Rankin sums up how Namatjira broke the mould of oppression constraining Aboriginal people to reach international acclaim. Immensely popular among Western audiences, he enjoyed success in his own lifetime - but his family and tribe have seen little reward from his legacy. Rankin's newest play, a biopic of the painter, tours the country, in an attempt to raise donations to buy back the copyright for the family. He knows what he's up against: "the stakes are high. The show has to be a crackerjack vehicle, and we're gonna have to keep working on it, and working on it".
For years the family have suffered the indignity of indifference towards their cause but have remained committed to their beliefs. "Talking about the copyright ... it was Albert Namatjira's, and it should come back to the family. To make the family proud,"
Lenie Namatjira, Albert's grandaughter, tells us. Despite their prosperous ancestry, the family are now facing hard times, yet refuse to be defeated by their circumstances. Sophia Marinos, who campaigns for The Namatjira Project, admires their resolve: "a lot of the Namatjiras, and particularly the grandchildren themselves, are in really quite desperate situations. There is this amazing sense of resilience and optimism".
As the play meets with success and the family's story gains wider attention, the campaign finds an international audience with two of Namatjira's grandchildren gaining a personal audience with the Queen. Despite this royal reception, their situation at home persists - but the campaigners stay optimistic. "It's all about the impact back home and it's all about what the project has been trying to achieve since its inception"
, comments Sophia.
This studied documentary lends insight not only to the history and legacy of Australia's greatest indigenous painter, but of a broader struggle for justice. Throughout the campaign emerges the story of a beleaguered group of people trying to make their voices heard - a story that rings true not just for the family of Namatjira, but the wider Aboriginal community.