Menu toggle

National Museum of Australia

Where our stories come alive

Collection Explorer

4

'Still life with jar and bowl', painted by Eddie Mabo, c1952

2002.0069.0001

'Still life with jar and bowl', painted by Eddie Mabo, c1952

Object information

Physical description

A watercolour painting on paper. The painting depicts a bowl and a vase with colourful decoration in the background. The reverse of the painting has the words "Koiki / Mabo / aged 16 yrs M." written in pencil.

Statement of significance

The Bonita Mabo collection comprises four artworks created by the late Eddie Koiki Mabo. 'Dragon heads' and 'Still life with jar and bowl' - both watercolours on paper, were completed by Mabo as a teenager. 'Tree in landscape' - a pen, ink and watercolour on paper, and 'Dark palm trees' - a watercolour on paper, were completed by Mabo as an adult.

Eddie Koiki Mabo (1936 1992), a Torres Strait Islander from Murray Island, was a prominent Indigenous activist, best known for his role during the 1980s and 1990s land rights case 'Mabo and Others v. Queensland'. This ten year battle culminated in the High Court of Australia's 1992 landmark ruling which established that a form of Native title had existed in Australia prior to British settlement. This historic decision ruled that Murray Islanders held a system of land ownership at the time of colonisation that has continued to the present day, meaning that Islanders retain customary ownership and title to those lands. This decision overturned the legal doctrine of Terra Nullius, the basis for the legitimacy of settler claims over Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands that had existed since 1788. This ruling remains one of the most significant events in the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land rights activism. These four artworks are significant both as personal objects created by Mabo, and as objects which relate to his attachment to Murray Island.

Object information

Back to top