Aboriginal artist uses Australia Post mailbags to push message about land rights to the nation

Aboriginal artist uses Australia Post mailbags to push message about land rights to the nation

Aboriginal artist uses Australia Post mailbags to push message about land rights to the nation

Updated 5 November 2017, 11:45 AEDT

Mumu Mike Williams gains notoriety in the art world for his subversive use of Australia Post canvas mailbags, on which he paints statements about Indigenous land ownership in English and his native Pitjantjatjara.

An Indigenous artist from the remote APY Lands in South Australia is using his fame to push his political message about land rights to a wider audience.

Mumu Mike Williams has gained notoriety in the art world for his subversive use of Australia Post canvas mailbags.

Mr Williams' work contains images and words, both in English and his native Pitjantjatjara to make powerful statements about Indigenous land ownership.

He painted onto canvas mailbags from Australian Post, ignoring the warning stamped on each bag: "Theft or misuse of this bag is a criminal offence — penalties apply."

Instead, he scrawled words in Pitjantjatjara and concentric circles representing rock holes across each bag.

It's a warning to government about how it deals with Indigenous people, he said, following the 2014 decision by the South Australian Government to change legislation to allow it to dismiss elected representatives.

"The politicians, the Government and everything has got to listen and learn," Mr Williams said.

"They make changes to try to take over… they want to be boss, not Aboriginals. But Aboriginals say we are; we are the boss."

Those living on the APY Lands know better than most about the consequences of losing control of it.

The British nuclear tests at Maralinga and Emu Field were done on the APY Lands without any consultation with Indigenous people.

"We're still fighting you know, no more happen again, bomb, no more," Mr Williams said.

Art world taking note of political message

Australia's art scene is taking note of Mr Williams's message; earlier this year, he won the inaugural Footscray Art Prize, and he's also a finalist in this year's Wynne Prize for a collaborative work he made with Willy Muntjantji Martin and Sammy Dodd.

This year, he also held his first solo show in Melbourne, and Black Art Projects director Andrea Canadian said it was a sell-out.

"People that are buying, collectors, are interested in his political message," he said.

"There is no doubt that you can't just have something like that as your decorative piece of art on the wall."