Uta Uta Tjangala (c1926-1990) Pintupi
Emeritus Professor JVS Megaw AM and Dr M Ruth Megaw, both scholars and supporters of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art since the late 1970’s, are long standing patrons of FUAM. Since 1981 the Megaws have donated generously to the Museum, with a focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander work. The exhibition Vincent’s Eye: 25 years of collecting for Flinders University Art Museum, Flinders University City Gallery, 2006 and the publication Identity and voices at Flinders University Art Museum, 2009 paid homage to their generosity.
Emeritus Professor JVS Megaw AM, born in Middlesex, England, graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1958 with an MA in Prehistoric Archaeology and Fine Art, and has taught archaeology at the Universities of London, Sydney and Leicester – where he held the Chair of Archaeology from 1972 – 1981. As Associate Professor of Visual Arts and Archaeology at the Flinders University of South Australia he was responsible for encouraging the study of new developments in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and in organising a series of residencies for Aboriginal artists.
During his tenure at the Flinders University, Megaw also carried out leading research on the Western Desert movement which resulted in two pioneering exhibitions: Dot and Circle: a retrospective survey of the Aboriginal acrylic paintings of Central Australia, 1986, in collaboration with Jenny Zimmer of Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and, in collaboration with Doreen Mellor, Twenty-five years and Beyond: Papunya Tula Painting, 1999. The scholarly publications that accompanied the exhibitions are considered landmarks in the documentation of the origins of Western Desert art.
In 1992 Megaw co-curated The Heritage of Namatjira with Angela Tidmarsh. This major exhibition toured nationally between 1992 and 1993 and its accompanying publications (catalogue and richly illustrated book of the same name edited by Jane Hardy, M Ruth Megaw and JVS Megaw) provided the first comprehensive scholarship on the art, life and legacy of Albert Namatjira (1902 – 1959), the most famous of the Hermannsburg painters.
Megaw publishes extensively in the field of pre-Roman Celtic art, contemporary Aboriginal art and the archaeology of musical instruments. He is a member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and of the Executive of the Pacific Arts Association and in 1985 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. Professor Megaw has held a Visiting Professorship at the University of Edinburgh and, since 1998 has held the position of Senior Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Glasgow. Retiring in 2003, he is Emeritus Professor of Visual Arts and Archaeology of Flinders University. In 2004 Professor Megaw was appointed a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM) for his services to archaeology and the visual arts.
Dr M Ruth Megaw read history at the University of Glasgow where she later returned as Honorary Research Fellow. She joined the United Kingdom Diplomatic Service before moving to Sydney in 1961 where she taught American and Australian history at the Universities of New South Wales and Sydney. Dr Megaw returned to England in 1972 where she became Senior Lecturer and Head of American Studies at the Nene College, Northampton. Since settling in Adelaide in 1984, she has written on aspects of contemporary Aboriginal art and the pre-Roman Celtic art of Europe, thus maintaining a long-standing interest in the visual arts and cross-cultural studies.