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PRINT October 2019

CLOSE UP: THE QUEEN AND I

Vincent Namatjira, Queen Elizabeth and Vincent (On Country), 2018, acrylic on canvas, 48 × 61".

LIVING AND WORKING in a remote Aboriginal community in central Australia, Vincent Namatjira may seem an unlikely oracle for the degenerative condition we call neoliberalism. Yet his paintings representing world leaders and the social elite possess a discerning frankness that exposes the paragons of power as hapless frauds.

In Queen Elizabeth and Vincent (On Country), 2018, Namatjira depicts himself posing as if for a friendly photo op with the Commonwealth’s longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Behind them is his home: the red desert landscape of Indulkana, a community of some 250 people on the edge of a rocky range in South Australia. The stiff-looking queen offers him honey ants (tjala) while Namatjira, deadpan, hands her witchetty grubs (maku), which are classic “bush tucker.” Such an exchange is not unusual in official Aboriginal “Welcome to Country” rituals, which

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