The first Yolngu printmaker from northeast Arnhem Land, Banduk Marika, has received an honorary doctorate from Flinders University in recognition of her remarkable contributions as a First Nations artist and cultural advocate for the Yolngu people.
Raised on Yirrkala mission in northeast Arnhem Land in the 1950s, Banduk was initially tutored in traditional bark painting by her artist father Mawalan Marika, who encouraged she and her sisters to paint the ancestral creation stories of their clan, an activity typically reserved only for Yolngu men.
Banduk later adopted linoprint as her medium of choice, and her free-flowing, lyrical artworks allowed her to illustrate the ancient rituals and traditions of her people in a new way while upholding Yolngu aesthetics and law.
In addition to her forging her own artistic path, Banduk has assisted other artists and become a powerful advocate for the protection of Indigenous art and culture.
As a traditional landowner at Yirrkala, Banduk is both inspired and determined to ensure her Yolngu language and homeland in Yalangbara (Port Bradshaw) – one of the most significant sacred sites in northeast Arnhem Land region – is protected and recognised.
Banduk lobbied intensely for Yalangbara’s heritage listing, which was obtained in 2003, and co-published an important book in 2009 on the region’s history and ancestral traditions: Yalangbara: Art of the Djang’kawu.
The book was produced in partnership with the Rirratjingu clan and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory and tells the story of the Djang’kawu – the three supernatural beings who named Yalangbara.
“This story is important and is why our fathers painted all these artworks, to show how these paintings relate to particular sites and what they mean. At the time they did not have a translator to tell their stories properly and so we want to tell their stories properly now,” Banduk says.
Banduk is a former recipient the Australia Council’s Red Ochre Award for outstanding contribution to Indigenous arts and culture, and has fought tirelessly to ensure that the work of Indigenous Australian artists is copyright-protected. In 1994, Banduk was involved in one of the most successful copyright cases in Australia when the Federal Court ruled against a company that had produced counterfeit woollen carpets based on her print, Djanda and the Sacred Waterhole.
To that end, she is currently a board member of the Indigenous Art Code and part of a team lobbying for government action against the sale of inauthentic artefacts that have no genuine connection to Indigenous Australians.
Banduk has also appeared in three films and an SBS documentary on Aboriginal languages, in which she explained how the passing down of her native language taught her how to care for her country and people.
Flinders University has a proud association with Banduk, who was artist-in-residence in 1986 and contributed to the development of the Museum’s impressive Indigenous collection.
Flinders University Art Museum (FUAM) is marking the important occasion of Banduk Marika’s honorary doctorate with an exhibition of Banduk’s prints, which will run until 30 April 2018. Read more about Banduk Marika’s exhibition.
Artist in Residence, Banduk Marika, 30 April 1986. Photos and video: Flinders University.