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Reproduced courtesy of Marrirra Marawili

Yathikpa ga Baraltja

Date: 1998
Overall: 3760 × 1000 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Marrirra Marawili
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033823
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting is divided into three panels. At the bottom is a depiction of the ancestral beings Burrak and Garramatji as they set out from Yathikpa to hunt the dugong in Blue Mud Bay. In the centre is Bäru, the ancestral crocodile at Yathikpa. The top panel portrays the flood plain of Baraltja and two lightning snakes. The sacred clan design (miny'tji) at the bottom of the painting represents the ancestral fire in the saltwater. While at the top the clan design represents the mixing of saltwater with freshwater.
    SignificanceThis painting is representative of the people in the Yirritja moiety of the Madarrpa clan in the homeland of Baniyala. It was painted as part of a wider project by the Yolngu people of East Arnhem Land to educate others of their laws, stories and ownership of the region.
    HistoryThe Yolngu 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 Yolngu people’s way of life and prominent themes in their bark paintings.

    In 1996 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 Yolngu 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. It also stressed the importance of Yolngu land ownership, laws and codes of behaviour for those who interacted with the landscape and sacred Indigenous places.

    The Yolngu 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 for 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: Yathikpa ga Baraltja

    Primary title: Yathikpa ga Baraltja

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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