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Reproduced courtesy of Nuwandjali Marawili

Yathikpa after Wakuthi

Date: 1998
Overall: 1230 × 800 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Nuwandjali Marawili
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033786
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This painting portrays the sacred saltwater country of Yathikpa where Bäru the ancestral crocodile brought fire and the great dugong hunt took occurred. At the centre of the bark in the middle of the sea is the sacred rock Marrtjala. This painting can also be viewed as a depiction of Dhakandjali, the harpoon that struck Marrtjala and unites the clans of Blue Mud Bay in East Arnhem Land.
    SignificanceThis bark represents the stories, customs and laws of the traditional Yol?u owners of East Arnhem Land, specifically the people belonging to the Yirritja moiety in the Madarrpa clan of the Baniyala homeland. it is one of a series of eighty barks that were painted for the Saltwater Project.
    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 in 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 feature prominently 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 illegal camp was the severed head of a crocodile. This discovery prompted the local Yol?u 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 allowed the Indigenous community to educate others about the social history, geography and personal stories of their traditional homeland. It also stressed the importance of Yolnu land ownership, laws and codes of behaviour for those who interacted with the landscape and sacred Indigenous places.

    The Yol?u 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: Yathikpa after Wakuthi

    Web title: Yathikpa after Wakuthi

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