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Reproduced courtesy of Bakulanay Marawili


Date: 1998
Overall: 2000 × 670 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: 00033777
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting depicts the sacred saltwater of Yathikpa and the place where the original crocodiles nest was. At the centre of the painting is the ancestral crocodile Bäru, a central totem of the Madarrpa clan and their fire creation story. The capsized canoe of the ancestral dugong hunters is also depicted referring to the sacred rock Marrtjala that is situated off the coast of Yathikpa.
    SignificanceThis painting is representative of the people belonging to the Yirritja moiety of the Madarrpa clan in the homeland of Baniyala. It was painted as part of the Saltwater Project by the Yolngu people of East Arnhem Land in an effort to express their land rights, stories and sacred sites.

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

    The Yolngu 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

    Web title: Yathikpa

    Primary title: Yathikpa

    Assigned title: Yathikpa [4]

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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