Northern Territory's 2020 Senior Australian of the Year Banduk Marika's ancestral stories retain their relevance

Banduk Mamburra Marika AO is humbled by all the honours and attention she has received over her long career.

Banduk is a Yolngu artist and printmaker from a remote community in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory.

"Especially as an Indigenous person, you don't always know how you are perceived.

"I left the mission school at 15 years of age and starting working, and I am still working," the 67-year-old said.

Banduk is the Northern Territory's Senior Australian of the Year, and is encouraging others to become involved in the awards so she can hand over "the honour" later this year.

Banduk's work is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, New Zealand and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

Banduk Mamburra Marika AO

Banduk Mamburra Marika AO

In 2017 she and Tiwi Islander Bede Tungutalum were chosen to design a set of four stamps with the theme "Art of the North" for Australia Post.

Banduk was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2019 for "distinguished service to the visual arts, particularly to Indigenous printmaking and bark painting, and through cultural advisory roles".

Banduk's medium of choice, linoprint, enables her to depict the ancestral stories in a new way, while respecting the law.

"The stories of my ancestors are important, that's why we create the art.

"As a female, I only received remnants of these stories from my Elders, and my father, so I have to be more cautious about the stories I can tell.

"Through our art we are hanging onto our culture, our language, our people.

"As an artist, a storyteller, it is who I am, my art is me."

In 2020, Banduk Marika became the Northern Territory's Senior Australian of the Year.

In 2020, Banduk Marika became the Northern Territory's Senior Australian of the Year.

Carving the design into the lino blocks echoes the practice of precisely incising clan designs onto wooden objects such as ancestral figures, Macassan pipes and message sticks.

Because she is a Rirratjingu woman, Banduk is intimately associated with Yalangbara and other important clan land in the region.

As a traditional landowner at Yirrkala, Banduk has inherited responsibilities that have shaped her life.

Yirrkala is a small Aboriginal community of about 700, on the east coast of the Gove peninsula in north-east Arnhem Land, just south of Nhulunbuy.

Banduk said she was educated at Yirrkala and moved to Darwin in 1972.

She later moved to Sydney in 1980 to pursue her career as an artist.

In 1984 she was artist-in-residence at the Canberra School of Art, and in 1985 she was artist-in-residence at Flinders University, South Australia.

In 1988, Banduk returned to Yirrkala to be the manager of Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Arts Centre and Museum.

Miyapunuwuy Yarru Yan - Turtle hunting at Dhambaliya (Bremer Island). An example of her prized print making held in the NSW Art Gallery.

Miyapunuwuy Yarru Yan - Turtle hunting at Dhambaliya (Bremer Island). An example of her prized print making held in the NSW Art Gallery.

She has traveled as a delegate and speaker to many national and international conferences. In 1994, a Federal Court judgement awarded Marika (and seven other Aboriginal artists) damages against a company that illegally reproduced their work on carpets produced in Vietnam.

Consequently, she featured in Copyrights, a documentary made in 1997 that explored Indigenous principles of copyright.

Among Banduk's many accomplishments have been appointments to the boards of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, and the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Darwin.

She was also a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council. In 2001, Marika was the recipient of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board's prestigious Red Ochre Award for lifetime achievement.

Her daughter curates travelling exhibitions and her son has shown great talent with lino-cuts as well.

"There is a younger generation of artists coming through, it is so wonderful to see.

"There is so much boredom in these communities, young people relying on alcohol and drugs, we still see our stories, our country, our culture as an answer to many of their problems."

This story Banduk Marika's ancestral stories retain relevance first appeared on Katherine Times.