In the heart of one of Australia’s most remote corners, nestled in a small community with just a pub, a church, and a single shop, the Merrepen Arts Centre proudly displays some of the nation’s most sought-after artworks. Among them is Kieren Karritpul, a Ngen’giwumirri artist hailing from Nauiyu, a remote Indigenous community located 220 kilometres south of Darwin. Karritpul’s meteoric rise in the art world has recently catapulted him onto the international stage, as one of only two known Australian artists invited to exhibit at the prestigious Colomboscope art festival in Sri Lanka. Kieren Karritpul: A Rising Indigenous Artist Takes Flight to Sri Lanka’s Colomboscope.
Having painted since the tender age of five, Kieren Karritpul uses his art to narrate the stories of generations past and the landscapes that shaped him. His artworks, often priced in the tens of thousands, reflect the deep connection he maintains with his heritage. In some instances, he even employs brushes made from his own hair, showcasing a profound and personal commitment to his craft.
While Kieren’s journey has included collaborations with major retailers such as Country Road and the attainment of prestigious awards, the invitation to Colomboscope marks a significant milestone in his career. “I used to always dream about going overseas and telling my friends and family,” he shares from Nauiyu. “My family said it will happen one day, and now it’s finally happening. I feel really happy … my dreams came true.”
Colomboscope, held in Sri Lanka’s bustling capital, Colombo, brings together artists and industry leaders from across the globe for a week of cultural exchange and celebration. For Karritpul, the experience promises to be an eye-opener, a stark contrast to the quiet community of Nauiyu. “At first, I was feeling nervous, but now I feel comfortable going overseas again because I’ve been overseas before,” he says. “It’s going to be like an eye-opener to see what the buildings are like, and the people and the culture.”
Cathy Laudenbach, head of Merrepen Arts, attests to Kieren’s growing acclaim, asserting that he is now considered one of Australia’s top collectible artists. His journey to this point has included two sellout shows in Melbourne in 2023, propelling him into the spotlight. “That’s always been his destiny,” she remarks. “He’s risen to the occasion every time. So he now is in a position where a lot of collectors are looking at him and looking at his work. It’s sort of word-of-mouth.”
As Kieren Karritpul prepares to exhibit his collection at Colomboscope from January 19-28, his story serves as an inspiring testament to the transformative power of art and the boundless possibilities that can emerge from even the most remote corners of the world.
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