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Reproduced courtesy of Bakulanay Marawili


Date: 1998
Overall: 1030 × 410 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Bakulanay Marawili
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033776
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This painting depicts the sea at Yathikpa and the sacred rock Marrtjala in the shape of Bäru's (the ancestral crocodile) egg. Marrtjala is the sacred rock of the Madarrpa clan in the homeland of Baniyala. The artist has painted the clan design (Miny'tji) that represents the Saltwater Country that is shared between the Madparrpa, Mangalili and Dhalwanu clans. The sea grasses that the dugong feeds on are also portrayed.
    SignificanceThis is one of 80 barks produced by the Yol?u people of East Arnhem Land for the Saltwater Project, an effort to express their stories and ownership of the Saltwater Country. It highlights the relationship between the clans in the region and their shared responsibility of the sea at Yathikpa.
    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

    Primary title: Yathikpa

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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