Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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HomeVolume 28Humbugging a step up from begging

Humbugging a step up from begging


Aboriginal artists approach shoppers touting for customers with hastily painted small canvases. It’s referred to as humbugging and is an admirable step up from begging.

This low-end of the art trade is a feature of Alice Springs street commerce, gratifying tourists’ desire for authentic souvenirs and photo shoots. The pieces are produced in hope and desperation of rapid turnover to provide drink and food. Money is always short.

From the left are, Roxanne Neal, Jeffrey Waco, the late Albert Namatjira, Stephanie and Ronnie Webb. Beyond the mall is the country as it presented during Namatjira’s life (1902-1959), taken from his watercolor of Heavitree Gap.

Populariser of the central Australian landscape tradition, Albert, literally casts no shadow. Metaphorically though, his influence stretches across the works of his descendants and countless non-indigenous painters inspired by his template.

Watercolour landscapes are still made as evidenced with Therese Ryder’s cover of the Arrernte dictionary. But since the late 1980s the dotted acrylic canvases flourishing in desert communities, aided by vigorous marketing, have superseded them.

Many if not most artists find security working for community-run art centres. Some, when in town and cut from their regular source, resort to street trading and risk damaging reputations they may have built through their community associations.

PAINTING by ROD MOSS: Custodians of Distant Landscapes, 2018.


  1. I’ve never heard of selling paintings being referred to as Humbugging. Humbugging is something completely different.


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