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Reproduced courtesy of Marrnyula Mununggurr

Living by the Sea

Date: 1998
Dimensions:
Overall: 1105 × 940 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Marrnyula Mununggurr
Classification:Art
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033788
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

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    Description
    This bark painting depicts the Yolngu people of East Arnhem Land living and interacting with the sea. It represents the Yolngu camps and their traditional ways of hunting. People prepare harpoons to catch turtles and dugongs, while others collect crabs for bait. The sea is shown busy and full of marine life.
    SignificanceThis painting represents the people of the Djapu clan in the homeland of Wandawuy. It is one of 80 barks that were painted by the Yolnu people in East Arnhem Land for the Saltwater Project. It highlights the importance of the Saltwater Country and the repect the Yolnu people have for the sea.
    HistoryThe Yolnu 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 Yolnu people’s way of life and prominent themes in their bark paintings.

    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 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 of Indigenous land ownership, rights, customs and law continue to be contentious in the Australian legal system and wider community.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Living by the Sea

    Web title: Living by the Sea

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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