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Reproduced courtesy of Larrtjanna Ganambarr


Date: 1998
Overall: 2220 × 810 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Larrtjanna Ganambarr
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033781
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting depicts the sacred water which flows from Nalkan, a place in Naymil, the saltwater country that is home to the ancestral barracuda, Warrukay. This bark shows six barracuda guarding the entrance to Nalkan. The miny'tji (sacred clan design) that is painted on a log at the centre of the bark symbolises the spirit world and the journey of the deceased's soul to the place guarded by Warrukay.
    SignificanceThis bark is representative of the people belonging to the Dhuwa moiety of the Naymil clan in the homeland of Yanubi. It is one of a series of 80 barks painted by the traditional owners of East Arnhem Land in an attempt to educate outsiders of their traditions, laws and stories.
    HistoryThe Yolnu people of East 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.

    In 1996 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 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 that 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 are currently 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 surrounding Indigenous land, rights, customs and law continue to be contentious in the Australian legal system and wider community.
    Additional Titles

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Primary title: Nalkanbuy

    Web title: Nalkanbuy

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