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Reproduced courtesy of Djanapala Wanambi


Date: 1998
Overall: 1530 × 470 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Djanapala Wanambi
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033795
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark depicts the ancestral turtle hunt in the deep water off the island of Garrawan (Woodah Island) between Groote Eylandt and Blue Mud Bay. Two hunters appear in their canoe as they harpoon a turtle and pull the line back to the boat. The turtle is surrounded by a band of food, the sea anemone known as Yathiny.
    SignificanceThis painting is representative of the people belonging to the Dhuwa moiety of the Marrakulu clan in the homeland of Gurka'wuy. It is one of a 80 barks painted by the traditional Yol?u people of East Arnhem Land in an attempt to affirm their land ownership, rights and laws.
    HistoryIn 1996 an illegal fishing camp was discovered at Garranali, a sacred Aboriginal area in East Arnhem Land. It instigated the local Yol?u people to begin painting a series of barks that demonstrated the rules, philosophies and stories of their region. The end result was the production of 80 barks portraying the Saltwater Country of East Arnhem Land.

    The Yol?u people are intrinsically linked to the land and the saltwater coastline. In 1963 a Swiss mining company began plans to build a mine in their traditional lands. In opposition the Aboriginal community organised a petition that was signed on bark and sent to Parliament. The Yol?u went to court to challenge the proposed development of the mining company and Australian Government. Their claims of land ownership were dismissed and the development of the mine continued. This historic event highlighted the issue of Aboriginal land rights to the Australian public.

    In 1976 the Aboriginal Land Rights Act was passed in the Northern Territory, now seen as the benchmark in the recognition of Aboriginal land rights. The Yol?u were decreed the legal owners of northeast Arnhem Land, however their ownership did not extend into the Saltwater coastline. Only in July 2008 have Indigenous rights and use of the Arnhem Land coast been given precedence over commercial interests and fishing. The issue of Aboriginal land rights, customs and laws continues to be contentious in the Australian legal system and wider community.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Garrawan

    Primary title: Garrawan

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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