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Reproduced courtesy of Mawalan #2 Marika


Date: 2001
Overall: 1120 x 470 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Mawalan #2 Marika
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033839
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This painting depicts Yalaŋbara, the place where the creator beings Djaŋ'kawu arrived. The Dhuwa clans were created by a man and two sisters who followed the morning star Banumbirr from the island of the dead, Barralku. This painting depicts the star, two sticks, freshwater holes and woven mats used by the sisters when giving birth. It refers to the formation of the freshwater wells in the Dhuwa country, fertility and the cycle of life and death.
    SignificanceThis story is representative of the Rirratji?u clan in the Yala?bara homeland of East Arnhem Land. It was painted for the Saltwater Project by the Yol?u (people) to express their stories, laws and land rights.
    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 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 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

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Primary title: Yalaŋbara

    Web title: Yalanbara

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