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Reproduced courtesy of Yananymul Mununggurr

Rani at Biranybirany

Date: 1998
Overall: 1360 × 970 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Yananymul Mununggurr
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033792
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark portrays the region around Biranybirany, a coastal station on Caledon Bay. At the centre of the painting a white column represents the grazing ground of the dugong, a totem of the local people. This is bordered by a series of round shapes to represent the patches of sea grass eaten by the dugong. The miny'tji (scared clan design) uses cross hatching marks to refer to the ancestral fire associated with the Gumatj clan.
    SignificanceThis bark is representative of the people belonging to the Dhuwa moiety of the Djapu clan in the homeland of Wandawuy. It was painted for the Saltwater Project by the traditional owners of East Arnhem Land in an effort to educate outsiders of their laws, land ownership and stories.

    HistoryThe Yolnu 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 Yolnu people’s way of life and prominent themes 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 Yolnu people to produce a series of bark paintings that expressed the rules, philosophies and stories of their region. The Saltwater Project resulted 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 and sacred Indigenous places.

    The Yolnu 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 in the recognition of 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

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Web title: Rani at Biranybirany

    Primary title: Rani at Biranybirany

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