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Reproduced courtesy of Nuwandjali Marawili

Bäru at Yathikpa

Date: 1998
Overall: 1170 × 450 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Nuwandjali Marawili
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033760
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting portrays Bäru, the ancestral crocodile in the saltwater of Yathikpa in East Arnhem Land. The ancestor Bäru brought fire to the saltwater during the creation time. This fire is represented in the diamond shaped miny'tji (sacred clan design) in this painting. Accompanying Bäru is four depictions of Balin, the totem for the barramundi that is admired by the Yolngu for its ability to live in salt and fresh water. This story is fundamental to the Madarrpa clan in the homeland of Baniyala.
    SignificanceThis bark is a classic Madarrpa clan painting and represents the important ancestral story of Bäru. It was painted as part of the Saltwater Project by the Yol?u people in an effort to educate outsiders about their stories and sacred sites.
    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 stressed the importance of Yol?u land ownership, laws and codes of behaviour for those who interacted with the landscape.

    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 for 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: Baru at Yathikpa

    Web title: Bäru at Yathikpa

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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