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Famous Painting Will Raise Money to Fight Kidney Disease

An undated photo released Oct. 14, 2017, shows family members watching Australia's most famous Aboriginal artist, Albert Namatjira, sitting on a rock as he paints.
An undated photo released Oct. 14, 2017, shows family members watching Australia's most famous Aboriginal artist, Albert Namatjira, sitting on a rock as he paints.
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A rare painting will be sold to raise money for kidney patients in rural parts of Central Australia.

The painting is a work by Albert Namatjira, one of Australia’s most celebrated indigenous artists.

Indigenous Australians suffer from kidney disease at 15 times the national average.

Namatjira was born in 1902 near Alice Springs in Australia's Northern Territory. He did not start painting seriously until he was 32 years old.

His use of watercolors was influenced by Western art. His paintings were different from the designs and look of traditional indigenous art.

Namatjira became well-known to Australians during his life time. In the late 1960s, his image even appeared on an Australian postage stamp.

One of the most famous and valuable examples of his work is a painting called Mount Hermannsburg. It has been donated by an Aboriginal group to a kidney dialysis center in Alice Springs. Money from the sale of the painting will help indigenous kidney patients receive treatment nearer to home. Often, patients must travel hundreds of kilometers for treatment.

Sarah Brown is the head of The Purple House, the center that now has the Namatjira painting. She says the donation is an incredible act of kindness.

"So I got a phone call saying, 'Hey Sarah, the Ngurratjuta (Aboriginal Corporation) board has met, we would like you to come to the Araluen Arts Center (in Alice Springs) and choose an Albert Namatjira painting.' And I thought, 'I am never going to have a phone call like that ever again.'"

Brown added that Central Australia is "the center of the universe" for kidney failure. In this part of Australia, she notes, more than 350 people need dialysis three days each week for five hours a day.

The Purple House also provides support services, including transport of patients to appointments.

Chronic kidney disease is the slow loss of the health of one's kidneys. This happens when other diseases or conditions damage the organs over time.

The non-profit group Kidney Health Australia notes that nine in 10 indigenous Australians with signs of chronic kidney disease do not know they have it.

The group says the high rate of this disease in these communities comes from the high rate of conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Other causes include higher rates of poor nutrition, smoking and alcohol abuse.
Indigenous people are the most disadvantaged group in Australia. They suffer high rates of poor health, poverty, imprisonment and unemployment. They make up about three per cent of Australia's population.

Namatjira died in 1959 at the age of 57. His Mount Hermannsburg painting is expected to sell for about $75,000.

I'm Alice Bryant.

Phil Mercer reported this story for VOA News. Alice Bryant adapted his report for Learning English. Her story includes information from health-related websites. The editor was George Grow.


Words in This Story

indigenous – adj. produced, living, or existing naturally in a particular region or environment

postage stamp – n. a small piece of paper that you buy and then stick to an envelope or package to pay the cost of mailing it

Aboriginal – adj. of or relating to the native people of Australia

board – n. a group of people who manage or direct a company or organization

dialysis – n. the process of removing some of a person's blood, cleaning it, and then returning it to the person's body

disadvantaged – adj. lacking access to the things, such as money and education, that are considered necessary for an equal position in society