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ANU Law Unrequired Reading List

About 'Maps & artwork'

From ‘Blind Justice’ in Sebastian Brandt’s 1494 The Ship of Fools to the The Ngurrara Canvas which was painted in 1997 by traditional owners of the Great Sandy Desert of northern Western Australia and admitted as evidence to native title tribunal hearings, maps, images and other works of art have much to say about the history of the law, its interpretation, and its impact.

Maps & artwork

The Aboriginal Memorial

Permanently housed in the National Gallery of Australia, the Aboriginal Memorial is an installation of 200 hollow log coffins from Central Arnhem Land. It commemorates all the indigenous people who, since 1788, have lost their lives defending their land. The artists who created this installation intended that it be located in a public place where it could be preserved for future generations.

AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia by David Horton

The map is an attempt to represent all the language, tribal or nation groups of the Aboriginal people of Australia. 

The Allegory of the Good Government and Effects of Good Government on the City Life by Ambrogio Lorenzetti

Ambrogio Lorenzetti's fresco series that lines three walls of the room in the Palazzo Pubblico where Siena's chief magistrates, the Nine, held their meetings.

The Barunga Statement

  • The Barunga Statement, a statement of rights written on bark, was presented to the then Prime Minister of Australia, the Honourable R. J. L. Hawke, by the Central and Northern Land Councils in 1988. Painted by Aboriginal artists from different parts of the Northern Territory at Barunga in 1988, it is a statement about self-determination.

The Fool Blindfolding Justice from Sebastian Brant's The Ship of Fools

The scene is one of the earliest known to show a Justice with covered eyes. The deployment is derisive, evident not only from the fool but from the chapter that the illustration accompanied, which was entitled “Quarreling and Going to Court.”

Frontispiece of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan by Abraham Bosse

This iconic image offers multiple representations that provide the viewer with access to many of the core themes of the Leviathan: At the bottom are juxtaposed competing, or perhaps balancing, sources of Sovereign Authority—images of Ecclesiastical Authority (on the right) and Human/Temporal Authority (on the left). In the grand center is the figure of the Sovereign King, whose body is both literally and figuratively constituted by the blurring-together individual bodies of the citizenry, the co- signers of the social contract, who face away from the viewer and towards the Sovereign.

Governor Arthur's Proclamation

In response to increasing reports of frontier conflict between Aboriginal and European people in Tasmania, Governor Arthur issued proclamation boards like the one below. The idea was to encourage friendship and show equality between Aboriginal and European people.

 La historia de la Justicia en México (The History of Justice in Mexico) by Rafael Cauduro

Housed in the Supreme Corte de Justica, Mexico City, the murals  offer a display, rare inside a courthouse, of law’s failings that is closely related with the Mexican popular representations of law and justice. The murals greet visitors with graphic details of “The Seven Major Crimes of Justice,” including rape, homicide, torture and police repression. 

Judgement by his Peers by Gordon Syron

A courtroom scene where the judge and jury are all black and the lone defendant in the dock is a white man. This painting has come to represent the way that many Aboriginals feel, as the story is turned around and satirically and ironically the roles are reversed. Instantly this painting conveys in a universal way, that justice for the Aboriginal person has a distorted history.

The great Ngurrara Canvas by senior traditional owners of the Great Sandy Desert of northern Western Australia

The canvas was admitted as evidence in a native title determination. 'Ngurrara' roughly translates to ‘home’. Jilpia Napaljarri Jones said, "We'll paint our country" to demonstrate their connection in order to establish native title. This is therefore (at least) a map, a legal document, artwork, and an example of cultural reproduction.

The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault

The Raft of the Medusa depicts an event whose human and political aspects greatly interested Géricault: the wreck of a French frigate off the coast of Senegal in 1816, with over 150 soldiers on board. 

The School of Athens : part of the Stanza della Segnatura by Raphael

The School of Athens represents all the greatest mathematicians, philosophers and scientists from classical antiquity gathered together sharing their ideas and learning from each other. These figures all lived at different times, but here they are gathered together under one roof.

The Trial by Sidney Nolan

Judge Barry then passed sentence of death, and concluded with the usual formula: ‘May the Lord have mercy on your soul.’ Ned Kelly: ‘Yes, I will meet you there!’ 

Under the Act: an Artist Book by Judy Watson

Artist's book interpreting her family's life and therefore the history of all Aboriginal people who lived under the Aboriginal Protection; and, Restriction of Sale of Opium acts of 1897, Queensland. She uses her great-grandmother and grandmother's documents found in the Queensland Archives. The documents reveal the categories, 'full blood', 'half-cast'. 'quadroon' and 'octeroon ascribed to the indigenous Australians of the day and the exemption card which allowed the holders to live and work outside the reservations.

Yuendumu School Doors

Artwork painted by senior Walpiri (Larry Jungurrayi Spencer, Paddy Japaljarri Sims, Paddy Jupurrula Nelson, Roy Jupurrula  Curtis and Paddy Japaljarri Stewart) on the exterior of 30 school classrooms containing 27 Jupurrka (Dreaming) to remind Yuendumu schoolchildren of the sites and obligations on their country.

Some of the doors are on display at the South Australia Muesum.

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