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Reproduced courtesy of Wukun Wanambi


Date: 2001
Overall: 1456 × 905 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Wukun Wanambi
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033840
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This painting portrays the sacred rock Bamurruŋu in Trial Bay, East Arnhem Land. The granite rock is coloured white from the guano of roosting birds and is surrounded by Garrawana or Oval Spot Coral fish. These fish were once people of the stone country. The artist has used white cross hatching marks on the side panels and bottom of the painting to represent the turbulent waters and coral spawn in Trial Bay.
    SignificanceThis painting portrays a story related to the people of the Dhuwa moiety of the Marrakulu clan in the homeland of Gurra'wuy. It is one of 80 paintings produced by the Yol?u people to express their stories, land rights and laws.
    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 Garra?ali, 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 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: Bamurrunu

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Primary title: Bamurruŋu

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