Wandjuk Marika

Wandjuk Djuwakan Marika OBE (c.1927 or 1930 – 16 June 1987), was an Aboriginal Australian painter, actor, composer and Indigenous land rights activist. He was a member of the Rirratjingu clan of the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory of Australia, and the son of Mawalan 1 Marika.

Wandjuk Marika

Born1927 (1927)
Died16 June 1987 (aged 56–57)
MonumentsWandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award
Other namesWandjuk Djuwakan Marika, MBE, Eldest Son of Mawalan, Wondjuk, Wanjug, Wondjug, Djuakan
Known forPainting, Indigenous Australian art
ChildrenMawalan 2 Marika (son), Rarriwuy Marika (daughter)
Parent(s)Mawalan 1 Marika (father) and Bamatja (mother)
RelativesBanduk Marika (sister), Dhuwarrwarr Marika (sister), Laklak Marika (sister), Bayngul Marika (sister)

Early lifeEdit

Wandjuk Djuakan Marika was born in 1927 (or 1930[1][2]) on Bremer Island (Dhambaliya) in the Northern Territory.[3] He was the eldest son of Mawalan 1 Marika and his wife Bamatja,[4][3] and the brother of Banduk Marika, Dhuwarrwarr Marika, Bayngul, and Laklak (all sisters).[2] He was a member of the Rirratjingu group of the Yolngu people.[3][4][1]

Marika was educated at the Methodist Overseas Mission at Yirrkala.[3]


His paintings expressed his people's traditional lore and spiritual beliefs, and included Djang'kawu Story (1960) and Birth of the Djang'kawu Children of Yelangbara (1982). [1] Djang'kawu is the founding ancestor of the Rirratjingu in traditional stories, who gave birth to the clan at Yalangbara.[4] He also painted the story of the Wawilak sisters. The expression of these stories was part of his responsibility as a clan leader, and the skills were passed on by his father, Mawalan 1.[1]

In a 1959 painting, Sea life (Dreaming of the artist’s mother), 1959, Marika expresses elements of his mother’s Warramirri clan. He was so distressed by the reproduction of the Djang’kawu story on a tea towel in 1959 that he stopped painting for years.[1]

As he had been taught English at the mission school, he used his skills to assist anthropologists such as Charles Mountford and Ronald and Catherine Berndt to understand Yolngu culture.[1]

He co-founded the Aboriginal Arts Board in 1973, and became chairman in 1976,[5] a post he held until 1979.[1]

As an actor, Marika appeared in the films Where the Green Ants Dream (1984) and Initiation (1987). He also appeared in the television miniseries Women of the Sun. He was both actor and composer in Where the Green Ants Dream.[6]

He was the author of The Aboriginal Children's History of Australia.[7]


Marika wrote frequent but unsuccessful letters to the Australian federal government to protest against mining activities on Yolngu lands.[1] In August 1963 he helped to send the first of several bark petitions to the Commonwealth government protesting the decision to grant mining leases on the Gove Peninsula.[3] The Yirrkala bark petition was the first Indigenous document to be officially recognised and accepted by the Australian Parliament.[8][9]

Marika lobbied for the creation of the Aboriginal Artists Agency in 1973 to protect the copyright of Aboriginal artists and Indigenous intellectual property.[3][1]

Recognition and honoursEdit

In 1979 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.[10][11]

A photographic portrait of Marika by Juno Gemes (1979) hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra,[12] and several of his paintings feature in the Art Gallery of New South Wales.[1]

His name was given to the Wandjuk Marika 3D Memorial Award, a category of the prestigious National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, awarded annually by the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.[13][14]

Personal life and deathEdit

His son Mawalan 2 Marika is also an artist,[15] and his daughter is Rarriwuy Marika. Wandjuk Marika was the uncle of Raymattja Marika.[10]

Marika died on 16 June 1987.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Watson, Ken. "Wandjuk Marika". Art Gallery of NSW . Retrieved 17 August 2021. [Extract from] Ken Watson in 'Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Banduk Marika". Sites and Trails NT. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Isaacs, Jennifer, "Marika, Wandjuk Djuakan (1927–1987)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, retrieved 16 June 2018
  4. ^ a b c MARIKA, Wandjuk, "Foreword", in ISAACS, Jennifer, Australian Dreaming: 40,000 Years of Aboriginal History, 1980, ISBN 0-7254-0884-7, p.5
  5. ^ Australia Council, Annual Report, 1976/77 (Canberra: AGPS, 1978), pp 7 and 8.
  6. ^ Wandjuk Marika at IMDb
  7. ^ MARIKA, Wandjuk, The Aboriginal Children's History of Australia, Rigby, ISBN 0-7270-0236-8, 1977
  8. ^ E, Smith, Diane (2004). "From Gove to governance: reshaping Indigenous governance in the Northern Territory". hdl:1885/43214. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ Vincent, Eve; Neale, Timothy (21 March 2016). "Unstable relations: a critical appraisal of indigeneity and environmentalism in contemporary Australia". The Australian Journal of Anthropology. 28 (3): 301–323. doi:10.1111/taja.12186. ISSN 1035-8811.
  10. ^ a b "Marika:Wandjuk Marika". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Dynasties. 4 March 2016. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  11. ^ "Mr Wandjuk Djuwakan Marika". Australian Honours Search Facility. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  12. ^ "Wandjuk Marika, 1979". |National Portrait Gallery. Collection. 16 July 2021. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  13. ^ "24th Telstra NATSIAA - Museums and Art Galleries - Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts". nt.gov.au. 27 November 2007. Archived from the original on 27 November 2007. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  14. ^ "35th Telstra NATSIAA Winners". Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  15. ^ "Wandjuk Marika OBE, b. 1927". National Portrait Gallery. People. 16 July 2021. Retrieved 17 August 2021.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit