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Reproduced courtesy of Dhuwarrwarr Marika

Rirratjinu at Dhambaliya

Date: 1998
Overall: 2780 × 740 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Dhuwarrwarr Marika
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033827
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This painting depicts the story of Manhala (Whale Rock) which is revered by the traditional owners of East Arnhem Land. It shows the rock surrounded by sea life including the totems of the turtle, jellyfish, moonfish, seaweed, dolphin, sea snake, star fish, reef fish, whale, rock cod and sweetlip. The story of this rock is related to the people belonging to the Dhuwa moiety of the Rirratjinu clan in the homeland of Yalangbara. The artist has used the miny'tji (sacred clan design) to represent the treacherous waters surrounding Manhala and the danger this poses for those who approach it without permission.
    SignificanceThis painting portrays the saltwater country of the people from the Yalangbara homeland in East Arnhem Land. It was painted for the Saltwater Project by the Yolnu (people) in an effort to express their laws, land rights and ancestral stories.
    HistoryIn 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 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 are currently 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.

    The artist has stated that - 'Manhala represents Rirratjinu Yolnu. Whenever fights, problems going on we stand on that rock - not fall down - stand like this one here - firm'. 'All animal are related to us and we sing all these totems'. 'The three rocks we also sing, and the waves when they go in and when they go out. It is all related to us - we are from that place'. Sea rights have come in because we are protecting the animals in it and the stories from past to future generations - to protect it - the sea'.

    Additional Titles

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Web title: Rirratjinu at Dhambaliya

    Primary title: Bark painting: Rirratjinu at Dhambaliya

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