Indigenous Yolngu artists in remote East Arnhem Land are known globally for their award-winning innovative works, drawing connections to land and sea.

And for the first time, they’re venturing into the digital world, with a group of artists making and selling NFTs (non-fungible tokens).

The phenomenon of NFTs has seen billions of dollars flow into the exchange of digital photos, videos and sounds.

When investors pitched the prospect of entering the growing marketplace, Yolngu artist Ishmael Marika, based in Yirrkala, was intrigued.

A white piece of paper on the ground with a motif drawn on it.
Yolngu artists are some of the most celebrated in Australia.(ABC News: Hamish Harty)

While some of the world’s best-selling NFTs have been pixelated cartoonish images, the items in Yirrkala are being created by digitising physical works, including drawings and bark paintings.

The individual pieces are photographed using an infrared camera device before being turned into moving digital works.

How do NFTs work?

If you have heard of NFTs but still don’t understand them, you’re not alone.

The digital asset is made using the same technology as cryptocurrency. However, that is where the similarities end.

A copy of CryptoPunk #7804, one of the highest selling NFTs ever.
CryptoPunk #7804 sold for the equivalent of more than $10 million.(Supplied: Open Sea)

Cryptocurrency is similar to hard cash in that it is fungible and can be traded for one another. For example, five $1 coins can be exchanged for a $5 note.

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