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Reproduced courtesy of Miniyawany Yunupingu

Baru at Murrmurrna II

Date: 1998
Overall: 2040 × 900 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Miniyawany Yunupingu
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033780
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This painting forms part of a series of barks produced by the Yolngu people in East Arnhem Land. It depicts the ancestral crocodile Bäru being speared by Gawanalkmirri, the ancestral sting ray in punishment for a wrong doing. The representation of a large cloud at the top of the painting and the two jumping Dhinimbu (mackerel) represent the peace achieved in performing this Makarrata clan ritual. Two snakes or Gamatji spit lightning into the sky to signify the start of the wet season.
    SignificanceThis painting is representative of the people belonging to the Yirritja moiety of the Gumatji clan in the homeland of Biranybirany. It is part of the important attempt by the traditional owners of East Arnhem Land to express their customary laws through a series of bark paintings, known as the Saltwater Project.
    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. Bäru, the ancestral crocodile is an important ancestral being for the Yolnu. This animal is revered and plays a central part in the creation stories.

    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

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Primary title: Baru at Murrmurrna II

    Web title: Baru at Murrmurrna II

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