Blue Mud Bay Sea Rights Flag, 2016
synthetic fabric, dyes
Lent by the Australian National Maritime Museum
Nuwandjali Marawili designed the Blue Mud Bay Sea Rights flag in 2008, to commemorate and celebrate the landmark Blue Mud Bay Case, one of the most significant legal decisions in Australia for Aboriginal Traditional Owners since the Mabo decision in 1992.
The decision granted Traditional Owners native title over the intertidal zone in Blue Mud Bay, East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. As a result, Aboriginal people now control 80% of all coastal areas in the Northern Territory.
Yolnu Traditional Owners have been active in the struggle for land rights for decades, with recorded political action taken as early as the 1960s. The production of art and cultural material has been a large part of this history, with objects and artworks functioning both as tools for community action as well as important evidence that can be used in the Australian legal system. The Saltwater Collection was a series of fifty bark paintings presented to the court in 2008, a crucial stage in the Blue Mud Bay case that demonstrated continued Yolnu connection to the waterways and coastline of East Arnhem Land. Carrying on this tradition, the Blue Mud Bay Sea Rights flag serves as an important object by which to collectively remember the decision. The five colours white, blue, black, yellow and red each refer to the clouds, oceans, landowners, sand, and the suffering and blood of the people respectively.