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Reproduced courtesy of Marrirra Marawili

Gurrtjpi at Lulumu I

Date: 1998
Overall: 1600 × 530 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Marrirra Marawili
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033765
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    The Gurrtjpi (stingray) is a source of food and a totem of the Madarrpa clan at Baniyala, East Arnhem Land. During the 1970s the Madarrpa clan moved to Baniyala following the development of a large mine near their community at Yirrakala. This painting depicts the ancestral being Gurrtjpi, who created the freshwater springs at Baniyala before being transformed into a white rock off Point Lulumu. This Point is represented at the top of the painting with Gurrtjpi and two turtles. The clans of Dhalwanu, Mangalili and Madarrpa share the Satlwater Country at Baniyala.
    SignificanceThis bark represnts a key ancestral story of the Madarrpa clan from the homeland of Baniyala. It highlights the laws and rituals of the clans who share the region. This concept of ownership of the saltwater is significant in view of the large scale mining being conducted on traditional lands of the Madarrpa.
    HistoryThe Yol?u people are intrinsically linked to the land and the saltwater coastline. They inhabit a landscape that was formed by the actions of ancestral beings. In 1996 an illegal fishing camp was discovered at Garranali, a sacred Aboriginal area in East Arnhem Land. It instigated the local Yolnu people to begin painting a series of barks that demonstrated the rules, philosophies and stories of their region. The end result was the production of 80 barks portraying the Saltwater Country of East Arnhem Land.

    In 1963 a Swiss mining company began plans to build a mine on sacred Yol?u lands. In opposition the Aboriginal community organised a petition that was signed on bark and sent to Parliament. The proposed development by the mining company and Australian Government was challenged by the Yol?u in court. However their claims of land ownership were dismissed. This historic event highlighted the issue of Aboriginal land rights in Australia.

    In 1976 the Aboriginal Land Rights Act was passed in the Northern Territory, now seen as the benchmark in the recognition of Aboriginal land rights. The Yol?u were decreed the legal owners of northeast Arnhem Land, however their ownership did not extend into the Saltwater coastline. Only in July 2008 have Indigenous rights and use of the Arnhem Land coast been given precedence over commercial interests and fishing. The issue of Aboriginal land rights, customs and laws continues to be contentious in the Australian legal system and wider community.
    Additional Titles

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Primary title: Gurrtjpi at Lulumu I

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