Aboriginal timeline: Arts

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  1. Opera Australia revives the musical Bran Nue Dae, 30 years after the original debuted in 1990. The musical achieved popular and critical acclaim for giving Aboriginal voices centre stage, tackling tough issues with humour and challenging mainstream perceptions of Aboriginal people. It tours Sydney in January, Perth (February), Brisbane (July) and Adelaide (August) among other locations. Aboriginal director Rachel Perkins made it into a movie in 2009.

  2. The 22nd Biennale of Sydney (March – September) has ist first Aboriginal artistic director with Wiradjuri man Brook Andrew. The title, Nirin, is a Wiradjuri word for "edge".

  3. A special set of oversized stamps celebrates the 250th anniversary of the Endeavour voyage. The "Navigating History" stamps were designed by Aboriginal artist Jenna Lee and Niqui Branchu from the creative agency Gilimbaa. Each stamp shows how Aboriginal and European narratives overlap in the context of the Endeavour voyage. The themes include sky, land, people, plants and the future. As Australia Post put it, "the visual narrative aims to create respect, insight and understanding of the multiple stories, lives and cultures that intersected at the time of the Endeavour’s Pacific voyage".

    A wavy line separates Aboriginal stories on the top from European stories at the bottom.
    The designers used bold red colour to illustrate Aboriginal stories and fine lines for European narratives. Note how the wavy dark blue band could almost represent the rainbow serpent, a key spiritual element in many Aboriginal teachings.
  4. A stamp showing a white hand holding symbolised atoms and a black hand holding the outline of a lizard..
    The stamp is part of a set of four designed by Jonathan Chong.

    Australia Post issues a set of four stamps to promote four recent citizen science projects from Australia. Citizen science involves public participation and collaboration in scientific research with the aim of increasing scientific knowledge.

    One stamp celebrates the Ngukurr Wi Stadi Bla Kantri ("We Study the Country" in the Kriol language) biodiversity project, a cross-cultural collaboration between the remote Aboriginal community of Ngukurr in south-east Arnhem Land and Macquarie University in Sydney.

    The Ngukurr Wi Stadi Bla Kantri project started in 2010, bringing together the Yugul Mangi Rangers, most of the residents of Ngukurr and children at Ngukurr School. It helps equip Aboriginal Elders and youth with the knowledge and tools to better understand and manage South East Arnhem Land environments. Through the project, the team is re-discovering a large and remote area unknown to Western science and working towards maintaining endangered Aboriginal bio-cultural knowledge.

  5. In its Art of the Desert issue, Australia Post features works by Aboriginal artists from the Western Desert region. Two were associated with the Warlayirti Artists in Balgo, Western Australia (Boxer Milner [Milnga-Milnga, the artist's birth place 1999] and Eubena Nampitjin [Untitled 2000]) and two with the artists’ cooperative at Papunya Tula, Northern Territory (Fred Ward Tjungurrayi [Tingarri Mamultjulkulakutu (Tingarri men travelling to Mamultjulku) 2001] and Walter Tjampitjinpa [Kangaroo Dreaming 1971]).

    Four paintings show abstract shapes and lines.
    The artworks show paintings of the Arlayirti Artists (WA) and Papunya Tula (NT) artist cooperatives.
  6. 18-year-old photographer Yolngu woman Siena Mayutu Wurmarri Stubbs from Arnhem Land becomes one of the youngest winners in the 37-year history of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, Australia's most prestigious Aboriginal art awards. She wins the multimedia category with a poetry and video artwork she filmed while on a bullet train in Japan.

  7. Wongutha-Yamatji man and first-time Archibald Prize entrant Meyne Wyatt wins the 2020 Packing Room Prize with his self portrait, titled Meyne. It is the first time an Aboriginal artist has won any of the awards in the Archibald prize's history. (The Packing Room Prize is judged by gallery staff who receive, unpack and hang the entries submitted to the Archibald prize.)

  8. APY man Vincent Namatjira, great-grandson of renown artist Albert Namatjira, wins the Archibald prize with a portrait of himself and AFL legend Adam Goodes titled Stand Strong for Who You Are and becomes the first Aboriginal artist to win the prize in its almost 100-year history.

    Indigenous art isn't just dot paintings ... We do everything – music, film, photography, contemporary art. We do it all, and we do it really well.

    — Vincent Namatjira
  9. For the first time DNA data technology is used to preserve moving images for archival purposes, and for the first time an Australian video is encoded on DNA. The video chosen is that of Cathy Freeman running – and winning – the 400m Olympic race in 2000, and on this day projected onto the Sydney Opera House.

  10. The cover shows the full text of the Uluru Statement From the Heart above a small representation of Uluru.
    Midnight Oil's album The Makarratha Project featured the Uluru Statement From the Heart on its cover.

    Midnight Oil, a non-Aboriginal band, releases The Makarrata Project, a mini-album of collaborations with Aboriginal artists. The album's cover shows the entire Uluru Statement From the Heart which about 250 Aboriginal delegates agreed on in 2017.

    We urge the federal government to heed the messages in the Uluru Statement From the Heart and act accordingly.

    — Midnight Oil
  11. A coin showing a semi circle of black and red to represent two colours of the Aboriginal flag.
    A two-dollar coin commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Aboriginal flag.

    The Royal Australian Mint (RAM) issues a 6-coin 2021 year set that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Australian Aboriginal flag. The set includes a collector version of the coloured two dollar coin produced for circulation in 2021 (possibly around the 12 July) to commemorate the anniversary.

    The coin represents the flag with black and red fields printed over a relief pattern of miniature flags. The centre of the coin is not printed so that the gold of the coin’s alloy shines through, acting as the yellow colour representing the sun.

    It's the first time the RAM includes a coloured 2-dollar coin in a year set of coins.

  12. Archie Roach is inducted into the Hall of Fame at the 2020 Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Music Awards. He also wins Best Male Artist and Best Adult Contemporary Album for Tell Me Why.


  1. Fists of Fire, Bruce's Lee's kung fu classic from 1972, becomes the first feature film ever to be re-voiced in an Australian Aboriginal language as Fist of Fury Noongar Daa.

  2. A portrait of Jason Gillespie celebrating a win.
    Jason Gillespie is one of the 'Legends of Cricket'.

    The Australian Legends of Cricket stamp issue celebrates six players, among them Kamilaroi man Jason 'Dizzy' Gillespie, the first Aboriginal man to play cricket for Australia. Gillespie played all three formats of cricket – Test, One Day and Twenty20. He retired in 2008.

  3. Simon & Schuster publishes Anita Heiss' novel, Bila Yarrudhang-galang-dhuray (River of Dreams in Wiradjuri), believed to be the first title of any commercial Australian novel appearing solely in an Aboriginal language.

  4. Gamilaroi artist Travis De Vries claims to have created the first Aboriginal non-fungible token (NFT) with his artwork Tear it Down (Cook Falling). He offers it for 1770 Tezos (tez) coins, a digital currency.

  5. For the first time in its 25-year history, the international Australian Fashion Week (31 May – 4 June) opens with a Welcome to Country and features two Aboriginal runways with an all-Aboriginal cast and all-Aboriginal designers, curated by Aboriginal people (runway 1: First Nations Fashion and Design (FNFD), runway 2: Indigenous Fashion Projects (IFP)).

    For a long time we've been associated with $4.99 boomerangs. No more please. We are luxury. It is an ancient, beautiful culture that has such depth and beauty.

    — Amanda Healy, Wonnarua woman, CEO of Kirrikin (Indigenous Fashion Project)

  6. One stamp shows the sculpture of a barking dog, the other a funnel made of woven grass.
    The works of Lex Namponan and Yvonne Koolmatrie show contemporary Aboriginal art.

    In its Australian Contemporary Sculpture issue, Australia Post shows one artwork of Lex Namponan, a Wik man from Aurukun, QLD, who is renown for his milkwood sculptures of camp dogs. The dog is a sacred totem for the clan, and his works, such as the laughing Smiley Blue Eye, combine cultural significance with popular market appeal. The other artwork is from Yvonne Koolmatrie, a Ngarrindjeri woman from South Australia. She is a master grass weaver, and her wide-ranging subjects include animals, human figures, planes and hot-air balloons, as well as traditional objects such as Eel trap, featured on the stamp.

  7. Artist and Pitjantjatara man Timo Hogan wins the 2021 Telstra Art Award in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, Australia's longest-running Aboriginal art awards, with his painting ‘Lake Baker’ which depicts a creation story related to this sacred place.

  8. Actor and Yolngu man David Dalaithngu (AM), as his family whats him to be known now, dies aged 68 after a long fight with lung cancer. He starred in movies like, among others, Walkabout (1971), Storm Boy (1976), Crocodile Dundee (1986), Rabbit Proof Fence (2002), The Tracker (2002), Ten Canoes (2006), Charlie’s Country (2013) and My Name is Gulpilil (2021).

    David Dalaithngu was more than just Australia’s first great Indigenous actor. He was one of the country’s finest actors from any culture at any time.

    — Sydney Morning Herald


View article sources (5)

[1] 'Navigating History: Endeavour Voyage 250 Years', Australia Post 29/4/2020, available at australiapostcollectables.com.au/stamp-issues/navigating-history-endeavour-voyage-250-years.html
[2] ''It took 99 years': Vincent Namatjira wins Archibald prize', SMH 26/9/2020
[3] Product description on JB Hi-Fi website, available at www.jbhifi.com.au/products/cd-midnight-oil-makarrata-project-the-cd
[4] 'First ever all-black shows: Australian Fashion Week showcases Indigenous talent – video', The Guardian 5/6/2021
[5] 'A ‘rock star’ trailblazer who was an inspiration for Indigenous actors and filmmakers', SMH 30/11/2021

Cite this page

Korff, J 2024, Aboriginal timeline: Arts, <https://stage.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/australian-aboriginal-history-timeline/arts?page=6>, retrieved 19 June 2024

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