Arts / Douma’s confronting work wins big prize

‘Green on Blue: The betrayal of trust’ by Rob Douma

FROM a short list of 35 entries, a confronting artwork highlighting a 2011 incident in Afghanistan has won the $10,000 inaugural Napier Waller Art Prize.

Open to veterans only, the winner, Rob Douma, was announced at the Australian War Memorial.

His winning work “Green on Blue: The betrayal of trust” highlights an incident in 2011, in Kandahar province, where an afghan soldier fired on Australian soldiers who were mentoring him, betraying their trust and killing three Australians and an interpreter and wounding nine more.

The $10,000 Napier Waller Art Prize is named after WWI artist Napier Waller, who was severely wounded while fighting at Bullecourt and later had his right arm amputated. He then trained himself to write and draw with his left hand and went on to design the artwork in the War Memorial’s Hall of Memory.

Waller once said: “An artist paints with his head, not his arm.”

Mr Douma, on learning of his win, said: “I think art can be incredibly important… I think it’s given me a vehicle to talk about a lot of the experiences I’ve had in my own decade in the military and in Afghanistan.”

His art work will be displayed at the Australian War Memorial and added into the national collection. He will also receive a two-week research residency in the art section of the memorial, and a mentoring day with former official war artist Ben Quilty.

Memorial director Brendan Nelson said: “Douma’s work integrates all the elements of what both I and the rest of the judging panel believe the Napier Waller prize should represent.”

Prof Sally Burford, executive dean of Arts and Design, at the University of Canberra, which partnered in spearheading the prize, said: “The Napier Waller Art Prize demonstrates the ongoing efforts of many to help current and former Defence personnel manage and overcome the pain and trauma they experience.”

The large judging panel included Dr Nelson, chairman of the council of the memorial, Kerry Stokes and Christine Simpson Stokes, Ben Quilty, former NGA director Gerard Vaughan, UC professor Jen Webb and representatives from the Department of Defence, sponsor Thales, and the War Memorial’s art section.

The Napier Waller Art Prize will be complemented with a $5000 People’s Choice Award. Entries to by November 25.

The 35 shortlisted works can also be viewed at

Napier Waller Art Prize exhibition, Anzac Hall mezzanine area, Australian War Memorial, until September 25. All welcome.





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