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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Mawalan Marika, c. 1963

Arthur Murch

oil on canvas on board (support: 50.0 cm x 40.0 cm, frame: 55.8 cm x 45.5 cm)

Mawalan Marika c. 1963

by Arthur Murch (1902–1989)

oil on canvas on board

Purchased 2015

Mawalan Marika (c. 1908–1967), ceremonial leader, political activist and artist, was leader of the Rirratjingu clan, upon whose Arnhem Land country the Yirrkala Mission was established in the mid-1930s. As non-Indigenous people arrived and remained in the area he became an important negotiator between the newcomers and the Yolngu. During the 1950s, he encouraged the commercial production of bark paintings at the mission, hoping to promote understanding of Yolgnu spiritual beliefs and traditions. In the late 1940s, he contributed to a set of 365 crayon drawings made for anthropologists Ronald and Catherine Berndt, and painted large bark works for the Art Gallery of New South Wales. He contributed to the Yirrkala church panels, and was instrumental in sending the bark petition to Canberra that has since become a key document in the history of Aboriginal land rights legislation. He was one of the first Indigenous artists to teach his daughters (Banduk and Dhuwarrwarr) to paint; his son, Wandjuk Marika OBE, was chair of the Aboriginal Arts Board from 1975 to 1980 and a highly influential Indigenous spokesperson and artist of the 1960s and 1970s.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2015
© Arthur Murch/Copyright Agency, 2020

Accession number: 2015.66

Currently on display: Gallery Four (Liangis Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Arthur Murch (age 61 in 1963)

Mawalan Marika (age 55 in 1963)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.