Ian Abdulla

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Ian Abdulla (1947–2011) was a Ngarrindjeri Australian Aboriginal contemporary artist. He has been called Australia's greatest naive artist.[1] On the morning of 29 January, at the age of 63, he died at the Berri Hospital, South Australia after a brief battle with cancer. His family was by his side.[2]

Early life[edit]

Abdulla was born in 1947 at Swan Reach, on the Murray River, in the Riverland region of South Australia. His art depicts the landscape and activities of this area, with a strong storytelling element.


Abdulla's work featured on the cover of the World Health Organisation's annual report.[3] His works have been exhibited around the world and form part of the permanent collection at the Art Gallery of South Australia and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.[4][5]

In 1991 Abdulla was named South Australian Aboriginal Artist of the Year, and was awarded an Australia Council Fellowship in 1992.[6] His book, As I Grew Older was awarded the Australian Multicultural Children’s Literature Award in 1994 and, Tucker was short-listed for the Children’s Book Council Eve Pownall Award for Information Books in 1995.[7]


His works are distinct for their juxtaposition of text and image against a flattened foreground. Abdulla's handpainted annotations briefly describe the scene depicted and are placed dead centre at the top of his paintings.[8][9]



  • Abdulla, Ian W. (1993). As I grew older: the life and times of a Nunga growing up along the Murray River. Norwood, South Australia: Omnibus Books. p. 40. ISBN 1-86291-160-6. 
  • Abdulla, Ian W. (1994). Tucker. Norwood, South Australia: Omnibus Books. p. 36. ISBN 1-86291-206-8. 




  1. ^ Narratives of charm and wit, John Kean, The Age www.theage.com.au, 15 February 2011
  2. ^ DEATH OF IAN ABDULLA, Jeremy Eccles, Aboriginal Art Directory News www.aboriginalartdirectory.com, 1 February 2011
  3. ^ Indigenous artist had unique style Tim Lloyd, The Advertiser, www.adelaidenow.com.au, 31 January 2011.
  4. ^ Deadly Artists: Ian Abdulla Retrieved 2 September 2011
  5. ^ Art Gallery of New South Wales Retrieved 6 September 2011
  6. ^ Ian Abdulla, National Gallery of Australia, nga.gov.au, Retrieved 22 August 2011
  7. ^ The Children's Book Council of Australia: Winners and Shortlists 1990 - 1999 The Children's Book Council of Australia, cbca.org.au, Retrieved 22 August 2011
  8. ^ Art Gallery of New South Wales
  9. ^ Ian W Abdulla: Elvis Has Entered the Building, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 September 2003, Retrieved 22 August 2011