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Reproduced courtesy of Wanyubi Marika


Date: 1998
Overall: 1028 × 980 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Wanyubi Marika
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033785
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting depicts the ancestral thunder man Djambawal holding his Larrpan (spear) above his head. Thunder man directs the weather with this spear and his penis, which takes the form of a waterspout. He controls the rain and with his spout marks the location of the special life force. The artist has used the miny'tji (sacred clan design) to represent the rough water around the island of Dhambaliya.
    SignificanceThis bark was painted as part of the Saltwater Project by the Yol?u people in East Arnhem Land to express their traditional stories, ownership and laws. It is representative of the people belonging to the Dhuwa moiety of the Rirratji?u clan in the homeland of Yalabara.
    HistoryThe Yol?u 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 Yol?u people’s way of life and prominent themes in their bark paintings.

    The thunderman Djambawal is an important ancestral being in Yol?u life, associated with the saltwater region known as Galariya near the island of Dhambaliya. Djambawal is able to command the weather and control rainfall with his spear and water spout. The Yol?u people communicate with him through sacred song and dance, calling for rain by speaking to Djambawal in Nhanu'yan, the language of the ancestors.

    The Saltwater Project was initiated 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 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 Yol?u land ownership, laws and codes of behaviour for those who interacted with the landscape.

    The Yol?u 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 in the recognition for Aboriginal land ownership in Australia. Despite this the issues surrounding Indigenous land ownership, rights, customs and law continue to be contentious in the Australian legal system and wider community.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Djambawal

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Primary title: Djambawal

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