Australian Indigenous Yolngu Artists Are Entering the NFT Space 

By Robert Drage March 22, 2022 In Australia, Blockchain, Crypto Art, NFTs

Indigenous Australian artists are digitising their work as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to create a new stream of income and share their art on a global marketplace.

Artists from the Yolngu nation in the secluded East Arnhem Land of northern Australia are world-renowned for their drawings connected to nature. For the first time, these artists are venturing into the crypto space by minting their artworks as NFTs.

According to Chainalysis, US$44.2 billion worth of cryptocurrency was sent to ERC-721 and ERC-1155 contracts in 2021 – the typical NFT standards on Solana and Ethereum – and these Australian artists will be accessing a piece of the pie. Blockchain technology will also aid with the copyright of artworks from their community as well as create a new stream of income for local artists.

Preserving Indigenous Art and Culture with Blockchain

The project is being funded by venture capitalist Mark Carnegie and artists from the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka art centre in Yirrkala who will be creating NFTs. The bark paintings of one of the artists, Wukun Wanambi, have been sold all over the world. “I like to try new things, a new way of sharing art to the world,” says Wanambi, whose digitised artworks now being sold online.

Yolngu artist Ishmael Marika. Source:

These works can also be digitally stored and preserved for future generations to appreciate. One of the goals of the project, according to Joseph Brady, the art centre’s Mulka Project director, is to buy more physical work so it can remain in the Yolngu community.

If enough of these are sold, Mulka’s portion of that will go to buying that piece for the museum here […] So the work will stay here at the museum within the community.

Joseph Brady, director, Mulka Project

Sharing Culture

Ishmael Marika, one of the younger accomplished Yolngu artists, hopes that digitising his art will help protect it against forgery and become an asset he can monetise. “We want more of my clan and our tribes to show themselves to the world, so the world can see [us] and carry on our stories,” Marika says.

What is the Yolngu Art Culture? 

The art the Yolngu make represents their clan and all of nature. It is a unique part of their culture, which is why these artists are opting for NFTs. The use case for NFTs as a method to preserve indigenous art and knowledge over a decentralised network makes it a resilient method to keep safe the world’s cultural information.

The designs used by Yolngu artists, whether on paper, bark, ḻarrakitj (hollow logs), or on the body in ceremonial mode, reflect each artist’s clan and country. They are an expression of connection to family, country and to the Wangarr, or period of ancestral creativity. To learn more about the Yolngu art practice, click here.

Last month, the Aboriginal Yidindji Nation launched its own central bank digital currency (CBDC), making it the first indigenous nation on the Australian continent to become fully digitised.

Robert Drage

Robert Drage

Robert is a freelance researcher, with a background in information science currently interested in blockchain technology and technical developments in the field.

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