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Reproduced courtesy of Bowathay Munyarryun

Wangurri Monuk

Date: 1998
Dimensions:
Overall: 2870 × 1270 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Bowathay Munyarryun
Classification:Art
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033822
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

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    Description
    This painting represents the saltwater country of Wulwala with a disguised depiction of Noykal, the ancestral Kingfish. The artist has used the Wangurri clan design to represent the shallow saltwater of Wulwala near Cape Wilberforce. At the top of the painting the rock Dhukurrua, is depicted on the seabed with Dhalimbu', the giant clam. The caretakers of this site are represented by two portrayals of the small turtle Malarrka, Manda the octopus, Madi the crayfish and Limin the squid. At the bottom the porrayal of two knives and two Oxeye Herring fish indicate the custodianship of the Wangurri clan in this region.
    SignificanceThis bark is representative of the people belonging to the Yirritja moiety of the Wangurri clan in the homeland of Muthamul. It was painted as part of the Saltwater Project by the Yolnu people of East Arnhem Land in an effort to raise awareness about their land ownership, rights and laws.
    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 when 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

    Web title: Wangurri Monuk

    Primary title: Wangurri Monuk

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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