Search the Collection
Advanced Search

Reproduced courtesy of Minanbuy Wanambi

Djerrka at Gurka' wuy

Date: 1998
Overall: 1680 × 890 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Minanbuy Wanambi
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033817
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This painting portrays two depictions of the sacred Goanna Djerrka and the hollow log of Gadayka which was cut down by Wuyal the ancestral Sugarbag (wild honey) man. The miny'tji (sacred clan design) portrays the freshwater of Guka'wuy River and the saltwater of Trial Bay. The artist has painted dots on Djerrka and the log in reference to the life force behind the Marrakulu clan.
    SignificanceThis bark is represntative of the people belonging to the Dhuwa moeity of the Marrakulu clan in the homeland of Gurka'wuy. It was painted as part of the Saltwater Project by the Yolnu people of East Arnhem Land. An effort to raise awareness about traditional laws, rights and ownership in the Saltwater region.

    HistoryThe Yolnu people of Arnhem Land inhabit a landscape that was formed by the actions of ancestral beings, who can take both human and animal form. For instance water now flows where these creatures walked and hills have formed where they died. Ancestral time is not just in the past but also the present and future. In light of this the sacred landscape and stories of East Arnhem Land are central to the Yolnu people’s way of life and prominent themes in their bark paintings.

    The Saltwater Project began in 1996 after an illegal fishing camp was discovered at Garranali, a sacred Aboriginal site in East Arnhem Land. This sacred area is home to the ancestral crocodile Bäru and found among the litter of the illegal camp was the severed head of a crocodile. This discovery prompted the local Yolnu people to produce a series of bark paintings that expressed the rules, philosophies and stories of their region. The project culminated in the production of 80 barks and allowed the Indigenous community to educate others about the social history, geography and personal stories of their traditional homeland. They stressed the importance of Yolnu land ownership, laws and codes of behaviour for those who interacted with the landscape and sacred Indigenous places.

    The Yolnu have been involved in the land rights struggle since the 1960s. They currently are recognised as the traditional owners of northeast Arnhem Land under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. This act was passed in the Northern Territory in 1976 and is seen as the benchmark in the recognition of Aboriginal land ownership in Australia. Despite this the issues of Indigenous land ownership, rights, customs and law continue to be contentious in the Australian legal system and wider community.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Djerrka at Gurka' wuy

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Web title: Djerrka at Gurka' wuy

    Related People

    Discuss this Object


    Please log in to add a comment.