Mandawuy Yunupingu turns 64, Google doodle on Aboriginal Australian musician & educator | Arts


Google today celebrates the 64th birthday of Aboriginal Australian musician and educator, Mandawuy Yunupingu with a beautiful doodle.

Mandawuy Yunupingu was born as Tom Djambayang Bakamana Yunupingu on September 17, 1956 in Yirrkala in Arnhem Land, an Aboriginal reserve in the northeastern part of the Northern Territory. He was a member of the Gumatj people, one of sixteen groups of the Yolngu people.

Mandawuy Yunupingu used to describe his name as ‘Mandawuy’, which means ‘from clay’. His father was Munggurrawuy Yunupingu, a Gumatj clan leader and artist. His mother, Makurrngu – one of Munggurrawuy’s 12 wives – was a member of the Galpu clan.

In 1987, Mandawuy Yunupingu earned a Bachelor’s degree in education from Deakin University, before returning to Yirrkala to teach. Back home, he devoted himself to his band Yothu Yindi, whose name translates to ‘mother and child’ in the language of the Yolngu people. Committed to the concept of balance, the band included both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal musicians and blended traditional Indigenous music with modern rock and pop.

Yothu Yindi released its debut album in 1989, the same year that Mandawuy Yunupingu became the principal of the Yirrkala Community School. Echoing his approach to music, he developed an educational philosophy that included both Aboriginal and Western teachings. Yothu Yindi went on to achieve worldwide fame with hits like ‘Treaty’ (1991), which spent 22 weeks on the Australian music charts.

In 1992, Mandawuy Yunupingu was named Australian of the Year for helping to foster a deeper understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

On 26 January 1993, Mandawuy Yunupingu was named Australian of the Year for 1992 by the National Australia Day Council. He was awarded in April 1998 an honorary doctorate by the Queensland University of Technology, ‘in recognition of his significant contribution to the education of Aboriginal children, and to greater understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.’

Mandawuy Yunupingu married a fellow teacher, Yalmay Marika of the Rirritjingu clan. He is survived by his five daughters and five grandsons. He was diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure, which in turn contributed to advanced kidney failure, for which he received haemodialysis three times a week in Darwin. By December 2008 he was resigned to the fact that he may die without having seen the longed-for settlement between white and black Australia.

“I’m still waiting for that treaty to come along, for my grandsons, … Even if it’s not there in the days that I am living, it might come in the days that I am not living. I know a treaty will change things, my grandsons will have a different view, a much more positive view, a luckier view. Luckier in that they feel part of Australia, you know,” Mandawuy Yunupingu said to The Australian on December 6, 2008.

Mandawuy Yunupingu died on June 2, 2013 at the age of 56 after a long battle with kidney disease. Google today honours the great musician, educator, and civil rights activist on his 64th birthday with a mesmerizing doodle.

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