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Reproduced courtesy of Gaymala Yunupingu

Gumatj Monuk

Date: 1998
Overall: 1210 × 930 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Gaymala Yunupingu
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033789
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting is a portrayal of the sea life at Monul, the Saltwater Country of the Gumatj clan. At the bottom of the painting octopi and a giant clam appear among the rocks, while above are representations of fish, seahorses, turtles and dugongs. This painting expresses a story of the people belonging to the Yirritja moiety of the Gumatj clan in the homeland of Biranybirany.
    SignificanceThis bark painting is representative of the traditional owners of East Arnhem Land and the people of the Gumatj clan. It is one of a series of 80 bark paintings created by the Yolnu people in East Arnhem Land, in an effort to educate outsiders about their stories and laws.
    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 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 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 that stressed the importance of Yolnu 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 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: Gumatj Monuk

    Web title: Gumatj Monuk

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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