The Aboriginal flag symbolises the most ancient living culture on Earth but in signing over his copyright to the Commonwealth the Luritja artist Harold Thomas has invoked one of the newest creations of the artworld, a non-fungible token (NFT).
Mr Thomas explained that he had ‘minted’ the NFT – a one-of-a-kind digital asset stored on a blockchain – in December 2021 to commemorate the anniversary of the flag he created fifty years ago as a symbol of unity and pride: ‘That pride we have for our identity that harks back to the birthing of our dreaming, to the present existence and beyond,’ he told national media. And we humble ourselves and give homage to all that has been created and left for us.’
He added that before assigning copyright, ‘I created the authentic digital representation of the flag, which I have minted as a non-fungible token (NFT) acknowledging the potential of NFTs in the digital art world. I will hold the NFT on an ongoing basis, on behalf of Indigenous communities.’
Mr Thomas said he made the Aboriginal flag to lead a demonstration on the National Aboriginal Day Observance Committee, which started from Victoria Square, Adelaide, on Friday, July 9, 1971… I have been the copyright holder of the flag but I have struck a deal with the federal government… that ensures it can be used by all Australians.’
He has painted from the age of 14 as a watercolourist and landscape painter, gaining a scholarship in 1965 to the SA School of Art. Examples of his diverse artworks can be viewed on his website
The deal, for a reported $20M, has freed the flag for personal reproduction and use. The agreement also includes:
- all future royalties the Commonwealth receives from sales of the flag will be put towards the ongoing work of NAIDOC
- an annual $100,000 scholarship in Thomas’ honour for Indigenous students to develop Indigenous governance and leadership
- an online history and education portal for the flag.
To ensure the flags continue to be made commercially in Australia the current manufacturers, Carroll and Richardson Flagworld, will remain the exclusive licensed providers of Aboriginal flags and bunting.