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Reproduced courtesy of Djambawa Marawili

Contemporary Madarrpa

Date: 1998
Overall: 2020 × 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: 00033775
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting represents fishing scenes at Baniyala during the artist’s youth. It shows the Madarrpa Clan totem of the stingray Gurrtjpi and a dugout canoe with two men returning with a captured Dugong. While in the centre three men fish from an anchored canoe using hooks attached to bush string. This bark is part of a series of 80 paintings known as the Saltwater Project. The paintings were produced with the aim of educating others about the sacred stories and laws of the Indigenous Yolnu (people) of East Arnhem Land.
    SignificanceThis painting represents the people belonging to the Yirritja moiety of the Madarrpa clan in the homeland of Baniyala. It highlights the role of the Saltwater Country in their way of life and the importance of marine life such as the Stingray and Dugong.
    This item was used in the federal court case relating to Indigenous native title in the sea that was over turned. This painting is also referred to as 'Stingray at Lulumu'.

    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 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 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: Contemporary Madarrpa

    Secondary title: Stingray at Lulumu

    Web title: Contemporary Madarrpa

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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