Shereton Mirage - Oceania Art Prize


Oceania Art Prize 2006 - 1st Prize
Paintings of a Natural Landscape
My Grandfather recalls "dilly bag" days when my Great Grandmother carried her Son and Daughter in a dilly bag....

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Published Reviews



As the first of David Attenborough’s TV program on the Great Barrier Reef aired last night, an Aboriginal art book by a Cairns artist and author, Munganbana Norman Miller, and Adelaide based RenBro Publishing, is the proud recipient of a Bronze Medal from the internationally prestigious and globally recognized Independent Publisher Book Awards – IPPY Awards 2016. The book’s Bronze Medal has been awarded under the IPPY’s National Category of Multicultural Non-fiction Adult which is for the overall medalists and includes entrants from UK, US, Aus/NZ, and Europe. This is an outstanding achievement for Munganbana as a longstanding artist of note.

“It was a dream come true to have a book of my art work published,” said Munganbana, “and to receive an international award is a wonderful feeling. Renbro Publishing did an outstanding job and my wife Barbara’s support and editing was a great help.”

The full colour coffee table book, “Reef and Rainforest: an Aboriginal Voice Through Art and Story”, features over 200 pieces of Munganbana’s art work recording over 25 year of his prolific artistic output The art work and the accompanying stories features the natural wonders of two world heritage areas – the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics.

“What is remarkable about it,” said Munganbana, “is that I have stories that go with each painting that depict my life growing up in the rainforest, my family, my culture and spirituality. It also has a brief history about Aboriginal people from the rainforest tribes and my work for reconciliation. I am from the Jirrbal, Bar-barrum and Tableland Yidinji tribes.”

It is the 20th annual Independent Publisher Book Awards and award winners appear for a year on the website, As well, winning medallists are featured in the IPPY monthly newsletter, which reaches over 15,000 subscribers worldwide, many of whom are agents, buyers, and librarians.

“I have just come back from a book launch in Sydney on 4 February at Courage to Care and a book signing at NSW Parliament on 29 March as well as events in Melbourne and Canberra to showcase my book,” said Munganbana.

“Reef and Rainforest: An Aboriginal Voice through Art and Story” was originally launched in Cairns in September 2015 by Mayor Bob Manning at the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre. Perhaps Cairns could be better known as a “City in a Rainforest.” Through his award-winning book, Munganbana is well placed to be an Indigenous ambassador for tourism for Far North Queensland, Australia.


Munganbana Norman Miller



Norman Miller has been welcomed back to Treetops Resort as the current artist-in-residence...

As an artist, Munganbana (Norman Miller) said he found it difficult to relate to his Tableland surroundings in earthy colours and like to paint them in their true vibrant colours of greens, blues, purples and apricots.

“The Bush Alarm Clock is one of my favourite paintings, because in the bush, the kookaburra is the alarm clock so I have painted a clock face around them” Mr Miller said.

“If I did something wrong as a child, the adults would say the kookaburras are laughing at me.”

The vibrant colours of rainbow lorikeets, common to the Tableland, merge in the background of his Rainbow Lorrikeets but still allow the birds to stand out…..

Port Douglas and Mossman Gazette 23/5/2002
‘Back in Residence'

With more than 300 paintings and sculptures, judges at the inaugural Sheraton Mirage Oceania Art Exhibition Art Prize had a huge task ahead of them.

For there could only be one winner for the top prize worth $6,000 and the honour went to Cairns artist Norman Miller (Munganbana) with his painting I carried my sons and daughters.” (It is an acrylic on canvas.)

The coffee table book and associated exhibitions called Gatherings 11, Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art from Queensland, Australia (2006) Keeaira Press compiled by Marion Demozay features Munganbana’s art. His works Dreams and Visions, Blue Reef and Rain Showers are featured. It states (P148) “Munganbana has owned his own art gallery in Cairns for over 12 years and his work is sold nationally and internationally. He is the 2006 open winner of the inaugural Oceanic Art Award. He presented a painting to Yad Veshem Museum in Jerusalem to commemorate the Australian Light Horsemen who won the battle at Beersheva in 1917. His work has also been exhibited at the Hamburg Museum, Germany.“

In the foreword it says “The following pages feature only a few of the many pioneers of the Queensland Arts industry and they are followed by a gallery of some of Queensland’s finest Indigenous artists….” The Premier stated “There is no doubt that through Indigenous art taking its rightful place in our country’s national heritage, reconciliation is steadily building. As non-Indigenous people continue to embrace this art, they are learning more about the complex and sophisticated nature of traditional culture and its dynamic contemporary expression.”

The Queensland Government commissioned a coffee table book and exhibition with the title Gatherings for the 2001 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) which was held in Queensland. This featured Munganbana’s art, this being a recognition of his stature as an Indigenous artist. This was a precursor of Gatherings 11.

The Queensland Art Gallery’s 2003 exhibition and book Story Place: Indigenous Art of Cape York and the Rainforest was the first exhibition to explore the historical and contemporary art of Cape York’s indigenous peoples. It also included rainforest artists which was important as Australian Aboriginal art had become identified overseas and even in Australia with the dot art of the Northern Territory and desert artists. Munganbana’s work featured in this as a prominent rainforest artist.

The book featured a Rainforest Shield, one of a number of his works that were exhibited. The review stated “The depiction of these shields is a political act – a statement of reclaiming the past, reclaiming one’s cultural history and reclaiming oneself…My work features the geographical elements particular to my ancestral landscape – the rainforest, cascading waterfalls and volcanic lakes, seascapes, riverscapes and the abundant plant and animal life of the region” P181.

In the introduction to the rainforest art and their shields, Trish Johnson states “Other contemporary artists, descended from the Rainforest peoples, have also researched shields held in museums, reinterpreting design elements through new media. For instance, Munganbana’s distinctive lino cuts incorporate historical designs…Contemporary indigenous artists share a relationship to land that continues to identify them. In spite of the adverse circumstances many have encountered, their connections to country are nurtured through their art. The revival of shield making by artists of the rainforest emphasizes a uniqueness amid the range of art practices adopted by indigenous groups across Australia, and creates a greater understanding of the continuing links between indigenous culture and the land.” (P157)

Port Douglas and Mossman Gazette 1/6/2006
’Art Stakes High’ by Stephanie Sager

In his latest exhibition called ‘Homecoming’, international artist Munganbana (Norman Miller) returns to his birthplace of Atherton for an exhibition with a difference.

The influences of growing up in the Herberton area feature strongly in his work“ continues the review “and bring to life the history and landscape of the time and place.

Where else might you hear the sounds of the didjeridoo, the bagpipe, the shofar and even a Malay musical instrument mingle in an opening night where even the sounds will echo a melody of reconciliation?

‘I’m not afraid to squarely confront the different threads of my identity to which I am reconciled,’ says Munganbana. ‘I call myself a mixed blessing and I want to honour my roots.’

Brought up in an Aboriginal family, Munganbana’s great grandfather on his father’s side, who he did not know, was Scottish. His grandmother on his mother’s side has some Malay heritage. As all four grandparents were brought up in Aboriginal families, there was not a strong Scottish or Malay influence.

However, the influence of white Australian culture is unmistakably there interfacing with a strong Aboriginal heritage.

This is a subject of the exhibition…Munganbana grew up in Wondecla, near Nigger Creek. There will be a display of what life was like at the time, the type of things you might see in a museum or a historical society so that, through life as depicted by the artist, the community will have an opportunity to reflect on its own heritage, landscape and community history……” This exhibition was sponsored by Arts Queensland.

The Tablelander on 22/1/02
“Artist Blends History, Landscape in Exhibit”

Norman Miller is Munganbana, the Aboriginal artist-in-residence at Treetops Resort in Port Douglas until the end of December. At other times, he can be seen painting or printmaking at Munganbana Aboriginal Art Gallery in Andrejic Arcade in Cairns, where workshops are conducted for emerging artists...

The catalogue of the 2001 exhibition, Lines of Descent, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Prints and Objects held by the Queensland University of Technology Art Museum wrote “In a series of black and white lino cuts Munganbana (Norman Miller) uses motifs which were traditionally from the culture of his Jirrbal people from the Atherton Tableland area of northern Queensland. His imagery is informed by the elaborate stylized designs of local flora and fauna with which traditional ritual shields were decorated. These have now mostly become treasured museum pieces.” This refers to Traditional Shields of different designs.

Stephen Rainbird, Curator of the Personal Vision, Multiple Perspectives Exhibition in 1997 of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Prints from the Oodgeroo Collection writes about Munganbana’s work which is part of this collection and exhibition “…Munganbana adopts motifs from his Jirrbal tribal culture centered on the Atherton Tableland and Upper Tully area of northern Queensland, where traditional shields and native wildlife continue to fulfill important symbolic and ritual functions.” He also writes “For many of the artists represented, this has involved the reworking of traditional themes and concepts in new pictorial forms through the assimilation and adaptation of influences from their own rich artistic heritage which is firmly embedded in mythology such as the Dreaming. For others, a willingness to embrace fresh stylistic and technical strategies from external sources and to incorporate these in their work has prompted the development of a new visual language as a means of revealing their personal feelings and beliefs. It is this blend of tradition and change, stressing the co-existence of disparate cultures, which gives these works their immediate relevance and vital edge.”

The Cairns Post 14/12/01
Series on Artists of North Queensland
Muriel Muecke