Respected First Nations artist and activist Harold Thomas will be presented with an honourary doctorate from Charles Darwin University (CDU) this week, in recognition of his significant contribution to the fine arts and activism for Aboriginal rights.
Mr Thomas is most well-known for his design of the Aboriginal Flag, but his body of work expands across more than five decades of mastery in a variety of artistic mediums.
He will receive the title of Honourary Doctor of Arts at the upcoming CDU graduation at the Casuarina campus.
“The creation of Art is my life and will continue to be,” Mr Thomas said.
Painting watercolours and landscapes from the age of 14, Mr Thomas’ trajectory as an artist started when he won a scholarship to the South Australian School of Art for a study of Modern and Contemporary Fine Art, later becoming the first Aboriginal person to graduate from an Australian art school.
Amidst his studies and work as a survey artist at the South Australian Museum, Mr Thomas also became actively involved in social justice for Aboriginal rights.
In 1971, he designed a bold graphic artwork that swiftly became the emblem of the Aboriginal flag, first hoisted during the Aboriginal day march in Victoria Square, Adelaide on July 9 that year.
Drawing from a classical education, his medium of choice has distinctly changed over the years, from watercolours to Modern Art oil paintings, prints, detailed charcoal sketches and abstract graphics sculptures, poetry, book illustrator and Architectural designer and lecturer on Aboriginal material and culture.
CDU Deputy Vice-Chancellor First Nations Leadership, Professor Reuben Bolt, said Mr Thomas’ dedication to fine arts was a testament to his unwavering commitment to preserving and celebrating the rich cultural heritage of First Nations peoples.
“His artistic endeavours are long standing and have been developed over many years, across many artistic disciplines,” Professor Bolt said.
“One of his most influential works, was the design of the Aboriginal flag which later became one of the most recognisable symbols of Aboriginality - a national symbol that featured prominently in the social justice and land rights movements in Australia.
“It was a symbol of activism, yet at the same time, it was and still is, a symbol of unity and solidarity amongst Aboriginal peoples in Australia.”