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Reproduced courtesy of Boliny Wanambi


Date: 1998
Overall: 1650 × 670 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Boliny Wanambi
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033821
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This painting refers to the Marrakulu clan' country in northern Blue Mud Bay and is an expression of the clan's identity. It depicts the hollow log which is linked to the sacred names used by the clan. The painting features a number of black circular shapes and portrayals of the fish called Garrawada. The bark was painted by members of the Yolŋu (people) for the Saltwater Project.
    SignificanceThis bark is indicative of the people belonging to the Dhuwa moiety of the Marrakulu clan in the homeland of Gurka'wuy. It is one of the 80 barks produced by the traditional owners of East Arnhem Land in an effort to express their laws, land ownership and stories.
    HistoryIn 1996 an illegal fishing camp was discovered at Garra?ali, a sacred Aboriginal area in East Arnhem Land. It instigated the local Yol?u people to begin painting a series of barks that demonstrated the rules, philosophies and stories of their region. The end result was the production of 80 barks portraying the Saltwater Country of East Arnhem Land.

    The Yol?u people are intrinsically linked to the land and the saltwater coastline. In 1963 a Swiss mining company began plans to build a mine in their traditional lands. In opposition the Aboriginal community organised a petition that was signed on bark and sent to Parliament. The Yol?u went to court to challenge the proposed development of the mining company and Australian Government. Their claims of land ownership were dismissed and the development of the mine continued. This historic event highlighted the issue of Aboriginal land rights to the Australian public.

    In 1976 the Aboriginal Land Rights Act was passed in the Northern Territory, now seen as the benchmark in the recognition of Aboriginal land rights. The Yol?u were decreed the legal owners of northeast Arnhem Land, however their ownership did not extend into the Saltwater coastline. Only in July 2008 have Indigenous rights and use of the Arnhem Land coast been given precedence over commercial interests and fishing. The issue of Aboriginal land rights, customs and laws continues to be contentious in the Australian legal system and wider community.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Nugunambi

    Primary title: Nugunambi

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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