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© Banduk Marika/ Licensed by Viscopy, 2017

Rirratjinu Dhuwa

Date: 2001
Overall: 2565 x 410 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Banduk Marika
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033838
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting refers to the rocky escarpment known as Galariya, the island of Dhambaliya and the sea between them. Portrayed at the top of the bark are two Dhalwaptu (green turtles) and a waterspout that represents Djambawal, the thunder man. At the centre is a depiction of the current Yolnu (people) hunting turtles and collecting fish. While at the bottom the ancestral whale Daymirri is shown in reference to the sacred Whale Rock. This saltwater area in Arnhem Land is shared by the Rirratjinu and Djambarrpuynu clans who have joint custody of the land.
    SignificanceThis bark is representative of the people belonging to the Dhuwa moiety of the Rirratjinu clan in the homeland of Yalanbara. The traditional Yolnu people created a number of bark paintings to educate outsiders of their laws, stories and ownership of East Arnhem Land. These were known as the Saltwater Project.
    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 after 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

    Primary title: Rirratjinu Dhuwa

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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