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Reproduced courtesy of Dula Nurruwuthun

Maywundji to Yarrinya

Date: 1998
Overall: 2900 × 1210 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Dula Nurruwuthun
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033824
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This painting is associated with the ancestral events that relate to the death of the whale Mirrinyunu and the floodplain at Maywundji. The spirit beings Wurramala and Matjiti killed the whale and discarded their knives in the saltwater. Their knives were transformed into a sacred rock. This painting represents the sand dunes and the ocean of the Saltwater Country. It refers to the fresh water that enters Maywundji from Rurranala and the Manutji (sacred fresh water wells) there.
    SignificanceThis bark is representative of the people belonging to the Yirritja moiety of the Munyuku clan in the homeland of Rurranala. It was produced as part of the Saltwater Project by the Yol?u people of East Arnhem Land in an effort to affirm their traditional stories, laws and ownership.
    HistoryThe Yol?u 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 Yol?u 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 Yol?u 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 Yol?u land ownership, laws and codes of behaviour for those who interacted with the landscape and sacred Indigenous places.

    The Yol?u 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: Maywundji to Yarrinya

    Primary title: Maywundji to Yarrinya

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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