Rirratjiŋu

The Rirratjiŋu clan are the traditional owners of the land around Yirrkala, on the east coast of the Gove Peninsula. They are the custodians of Yalaŋbara, where the Djan’kawu first landed. The Rirratjiŋu clan is part of the Dhuwa moiety.

The patriarch, Djuwakan Marika, was the father of six sons who would go on to play a central role in Australian art and politics. The oldest, Mawalan Marika, negotiated the establishment of the Methodist mission at Yirrkala in 1935. Along with his brothers, Mathaman, Milirrpum and Roy Daydaŋa, Mawalan was a powerful advocate for Indigenous rights. The brothers played a central role in the first Aboriginal land rights case brought to federal court. Milirrpum v. Nabalco eventually led to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act of 1976. 

Mawalan’s oldest son, Wandjuk Marika, became one of the best known Aboriginal artists, traveling the world to promote Indigenous Australian art. Mawalan also broke with convention by teaching his daughters to paint. Dhuwarrwarr Marika was the first woman permitted to paint maḏayin miny’tji (sacred designs). Her sister Dr. Banduk Marika AO was a widely renowned artist who was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2019.