1990

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Due to innovations in technology, communication was expedited in the 1990s. For example, Buku-Larrŋgay received its first computer. In 1990 alone, several artists received prestigious awards and honors. Dhuwarrwarr Marika was awarded a professional development grant from the Australia Council for the Arts to pursue her art full time. Banduk Marika was the first Aboriginal Australian appointed as a member of the Council of the Australian National Gallery in Canberra. Mutitjpuy Munuŋgurr was awarded first prize at the 7th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. In 1991, the band Yothu Yindi released the single “Treaty,” which became the first song by a predominantly Aboriginal band to chart in Australia. It was also the first song in any Aboriginal Australian language to gain international recognition. In the 1992 case Mabo v. Queensland, the High Court of Australia recognized the indigenous ownership of Mer (Murray’s Island) in a case brought by a group of Torres Strait Islanders. The court established that native title exists for all Indigenous Australians. The doctrine of terra nullius (nobody’s land) was overturned. The following year, the Native Title Act was passed. It recognizes the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on both land and water in accordance with their traditional laws and customs. The service of the 51 Yolŋu men in the Northern territory Special Reconnaissance Unit was formally acknowledged by the federal government through payment and medals. Also in 1992, Mädawuy Yunupiŋu was named Australian of the Year. In 1993, John W. Kluge purchased the collection of Edward L. Ruhe, making his collection the largest private collection of Aboriginal art outside of Australia. He went on to donate his collection to the University of Virginia, Charlottesville in 1997. In 1995, The Yirrkala Print Space opened at Buku-Larrŋgay with master printmaker Basil Hall. Marrnyula Munuŋgurr played a pivotal role as manager and head printmaker until 2011. In 1996, John W. Kluge commissioned 29 monumental bark paintings from Yirrkala with Howard Morphy. In 1997, Djambawa Marawili initiated Saltwater. In this project, 47 Yolŋu artists from 15 clans and 18 homeland communities documented Yolŋu ownership of Sea Country. The exhibition was a catalyst for the Blue Mud Bay case and was a crucial body of evidence. In 1998, the first national Sorry Day was held to remember the Stolen Generation of Aborignal children forcibly removed from their families by official government policy. The Croker Island Seas case determined that native title exists over 2,000 square kilometers of sea and seabed adjoining Croker Island in the Northern Territory. This was the first time that an Australian court accepted native title claims to an offshore region. Mathan Marika’s Marwuya (1959) sold at Sotheby’s New York for $71,250 USD, setting a record for an Aboriginal Australian bark painting. In 1999, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection opened at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Pieces from this Decade