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Reproduced courtesy of Watjinbuy Marawili

Baraltja ga Yathikpa

Date: 1998
Dimensions:
Overall: 2230 × 920 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Watjinbuy Marawili
Classification:Art
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033782
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    Description
    This bark painting portrays the two areas Baraltja and Yathikpa in the country of the Madarrpa clan. Baraltja is the flood plain and home of the lightning snake Mundukal. In the centre of the painting the Saltwater Country of Yathikpa is shown. There are depictions of Bäru the ancestral crocodile, the dugong feeding on sea grass and the sacred rock Marrtjala being struck by a harpoon of the ancestral hunters Burrak and Garramatji.
    SignificanceThis bark is representative of the people belonging to the Yirritja moiety of the Madarrpa clan in the homeland of Baniyala. It is one of 80 barks painted by the Yolngu people on East Arnhem Land for the Saltwater Project.
    HistoryThe Yolngu 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 Yolngu people’s way of life and prominent themes in their bark paintings.

    The snake Burrut'tji is associated with the story of the people from the Madarrpa clan. In the time of the clan’s ancestors Burrut'tji made its way underground to the people's homeland. The snake tasted the fresh water in the river and spat lightning bolts into the sky to herald the beginning of the wet season.

    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 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 that 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 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

    Web title: Baraltja ga Yathikpa

    Primary title: Baraltja ga Yathikpa

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