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Reproduced courtesy of Djambawa Marawili

Yikawana ga Nurruguyamirr

Date: 1998
Overall: 2000 × 590 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Djambawa Marawili
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033774
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This painting recounts the story of the Madarrpa clan' s ancestral hunters Yikawana and Nurruguyamirr. Firstly the hunters are shown in their paperbark canoe, paddling with a load of fishing equipment. At the bottom of the painting a large storm has just overturned the vessel. One of the hunters drowns while the second grasps on to the rock Garramatji, before being metamorphosed into the rock. The traditional Yolnu owners of the East Arnhem Land pay respect to these ancestral hunters when they fish in this area.
    SignificanceThis story is representative of the people belonging to the Yirritja moiety of the Madarrpa clan in the homeland of Baniyala. The traditional Yol?u owners of East Arnhem Land produced a number of paintings to educate outsiders about their sacred stories and laws. This effort resulted in the production of 80 bark paintings known as the Saltwater Project.

    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 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 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 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 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

    Primary title: Yikawana ga Nurruguyamirr

    Web title: Yikawana ga Nurruguyamirr

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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