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Reproduced courtesy of Djangirrawuy Garawirritja


Date: 1998
Overall: 1070 × 520 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Djangirrawuy Garawirritja
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033761
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting portrays the saltwater around Lungurrtja or Hardy Island in Arnhem Bay. The two snakes represent the sandbars made by the lightning snake Wunhanu and the triangular shapes refer to the Wulpundurr, (big black storms clouds) that build up from Lungurrtja during the wet season. This bark depicts a story belonging to the Gupapuyna clan in the homeland of Lungurrtja, East Arnhem Land.
    SignificanceThis bark is representative of the ancestral stories and beings of the people belonging to the Gupapuyna clan in the homeland of Lungurrtja. It was painted for the Saltwater Project by the Yol?u people in an effort to educate others of their stories, laws 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.

    In 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 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. It also stressed the importance of Yol?u land ownership, laws and codes of behaviour for those who interacted with the landscape and the 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 for the recognition of Aboriginal land ownership in Australia. Despite this the issues surrounding Indigenous land ownership, rights, customs and laws continue to be contentious in the Australian legal system and wider community.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Lungurrtja

    Web title: Lungurrtja

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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