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Reproduced courtesy of Guwayguway Wanambi

Djerrka at Gurka' wuy

Date: 1998
Overall (Depth measured April 2015): 1570 × 780 mm, 5700 g
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Guwayguway Wanambi
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033768
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting shows the sacred Goanna Djerrka as it carries Djarrwit, the fresh water mussel in its mouth. It features two representations of Djerrka moving around the log of Gadayka. A second depiction of Djerrka is surrounded by two posts, referring to the creation sisters, Djuwany at Gurka'wuy. The miny'tji (sacred clan design) used in this painting represents the mixing of saltwater and freshwater in the Gurka'wuy River.
    SignificanceThis bark represents the people belonging to the Dhuwa moiety of the Marrakulu clan in the homeland of Gurka'wuy. It was painted for the Saltwater Project, a series of 80 barks that expressed the Yolngu peoples' sacred stories, laws and land.

    HistoryThe Yolnu 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 Yolnu 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 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 stressed the importance of Yolnu land ownership, laws and codes of behaviour for those who interacted with the landscape.

    The Yolnu 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

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Primary title: Djerrka at Gurka' wuy

    Web title: Djerrka at Gurka' wuy

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