Eddie Koiki Mabo Library Art Exhibition


An exhibition of the artworks of Gail Mabo, Koiki’s daughter, was held on the first anniversary of the naming of the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library. This was to be the first of an ongoing series of exhibitions in memory of Eddie Koiki Mabo, held from 21 May for three weeks, with the aim to coincide with National Sorry Day (26 May), National Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June) and Mabo Day (3 June).

The exhibition is a public event that is intended to provide JCU staff, students and visitors to the library a way to engage with the works of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and the themes that shape those works. It provides a way to reconnect with the Mabo story and the issues facing the First Nations people of the lands now called Australia through a vibrant and engaging medium that interacts with the library space.

For the first 10 years of the exhibition, an artist was selected in consultation with Gail Mabo (the exhibition’s patron) to feature as the exhibition artist of that year. In 2018, the 10th anniversary of the naming of the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library, all of the previous artists were brought back for a retrospective exhibition (that also featured new works by the artists). From 2018 onwards, the exhibition organisers have looked for ways to utilise different exhibition formats to ensure this unique way to honour the memory of Eddie Koiki Mabo remains contemporary and inclusive.


2009 – Gail Mabo, Mabo Kara Art

The first anniversary of the library’s naming was commemorated with an inaugural exhibition featuring the works of nationally acclaimed artist Gail Mabo – Koiki and Bonita’s daughter.

Gail Mabo has been an internationally recognised artist, dancer, writer and advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights and culture for many years. Her ability to share and educate wider Australia – and the world – about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures is highly valued. In her own way, Gail continues her father’s work, inspiring the world through the beauty and value of Torres Strait Islander culture.

Gail’s exhibition, Mabo Kara Art, presented a number of landscapes that illustrated the connection between spirits and Country, showing how the spirits of her people were entrenched in the land.

Gail Mabo in the library putting the finishing touches on an artwork.
Gail Mabo surrounded by some of her paintings
Gail Mabo artist talk.

Following are images of the exhibition flyers for the various exhibitions from 2009 – 2022.

Promotional poster for "Mabo Kara Art" exhibition by Gail Mabo, 20 May to 5 June 2009

2010 – Susan Peters Nampitjin, Winkirr (Dreaming and Reflections of Country)

Poster for Susan Peters Nampitjin Exhibition "Winkirr (Dreaming and Reflections of Country), 21 May to 20 June 2010

2012 – Gail Mabo, 17

Except from flyer for the Eddie Koiki Mabo Art Exhibition, "17" by Gail Mabo, 3 June to 18 June 2012

2013 – Aicey Zaro, Kara Uteb, Kara Nerkep (My Home, My Heart)

Promotional poster for the Eddie Koiki Mabo Art Exhibition "Kara Uteb, Kara Nerkep (My Heart, My Home) by Aicey Zaro, May 21st to June 10th 2013

2014 – Sharon Banjo, My Land, My Art, My People 

Promotional poster for Eddie Koiki Mabo Art Exhibition "My Land, My Art, My People" by Sharon Banjo, May 21st to June 15th, 2014

2015 – Teho Ropeyarn, Mandang Ikamba (Strength of a Crocodile)

Promotional material for Eddie Koiki Mabo Art Exhibition "Mandang Ikamba (Strength of a Crocodile)" by Teho Ropeyard, 14 May to 12 June 2015

2016 – Tommy Pau, Ad Wer: Story of the Stars from Eastern Torres Strait Island

Promotional material for "Ad Wer: Story of the Stars from Eastern Torres Strait" exhibition by Tommy Pau, 20 May to 26 June 2016

2017 – Gail Mabo, Reflections: 25 Years On

Poster for 2017 Eddie Koiki Mabo Art Exhibition. "Reflections, 25 years on", by Gail Mabo. Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Mabo Decision. 19 May to 12 June.

2018 – Mabo Library Art Exhibition Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Naming of the Library

In 2018, for the 10th anniversary of the naming of the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library, the exhibition featured previous artists from the past exhibitions, in order to showcase their past and current work. The exhibition contained works by Gail Mabo, Tommy Pau, Teho Ropeyarn, Sharon Banjo, Aicey Zaro and Susan Peters Nampitjin. Over the past ten years, artworks by each of the artists has been purchased for the James Cook University Art Collection to commemorate the Mabo legacy.

Promotional material for "10 Years" - the 10th Eddie Koiki Mabo Library Art Exhibition, featuring works from all previous artists. Exhibition Dates 18 May to 15 June

2020 – Inaugural Artist in Residence Program

In 2020, the library hosted an Artist Residency Program  – Drawn to the Mabo Library – which took place in the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library, including Special Collections and the surrounding grounds of the Townsville campus.

The intention of this program was to open the library for artists to interpret and respond visually and creatively to:

  • the library’s buildings and public spaces,
  • relevant items in the Special Collections, and
  • the program theme: People, Place, Knowledge, Legacy.

Townsville-based artist, Rob Douma was chosen as the inaugural Artist in Residence. Douma (the first non-Indigenous artist to present in an Eddie Koiki Mabo Art Exhibition) was selected by a panel of judges (including Gail Mabo) from a shortlist of three finalists taken from eight applicants, with his clear and well presented proposal and folio of works. Douma spent a lot of time drawing in and around the library and the resulting exhibition was very popular with staff and students alike. A series of videos were produced to document the residency and a virtual tour was made of the exhibition.


2022 – Arone Meeks, “Tribute” Arone Meeks

The 2022 Mabo Library Art Exhibition, “Tribute” Arone Meeks, showcased the work of Arone Raymond Meeks (b.1957 – d. 2021). Meeks had influenced and contributed to the development of (and in raising the profile of) contemporary, urban, Aboriginal art in Australia since the 1980s. He worked across a range of mediums and was a well-loved and respected teacher / mentor to many North Queensland Indigenous artists, including Gail Mabo.


The year 2022 marks the 30 year anniversary of the Mabo case, and it was felt that the works of Arone Meeks (b.1957 – d. 2021) were particularly suited to celebrating the anniversary of the case that lead to the legal recognition of the relationship between traditional owners and the lands now known as Australia. Meeks, a proud Kuku Midiji man, was a nationally and internationally acclaimed and celebrated Queensland artist whose works captured a particular relationship between culture and nature. Meeks felt this relationship was a part of his identity and community. “Tribute” was co-curated by independent Cairns-based artist Geoff Dixon and the Manager of Special Collections Bronwyn McBurnie, and featured selected paintings and prints created by Arone Meeks in the years between 2001 – 2021.

“Tribute” Arone Meeks has also been documented as a virtual tour so that audiences from far and wide can see the display and the works that were featured.



Eddie Koiki Mabo: History in the Making Copyright © by James Cook University Library. All Rights Reserved.