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Reproduced courtesy of Gawirrin Gumana

Djarrwark ga Dhalwaŋu

Date: 1998
Overall: 1530 × 830 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Gawirrin Gumana
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033797
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting expresses the artist Dr Gumana's inherited rights to the land through his naming, mapping and depiction of the coastline. His title on this region stems from his intricate knowledge of the sacred laws, songs, ancestral events and life cycle of the fresh and saltwater. The painting depicts Walwaltjpa (the creator sisters) in the form of a catfish, Balin the Burramundi and the lightning snake Mundukal.
    SignificanceThis bark was painted as part of the Saltwater Project by the Yol?u people. It was used as evidence in court hearings to argue Indigenous claims to land and sea title in East Arnhem Land. It is representative of the Dhalwa?u clan in the homeland of Baraltja.
    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

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Web title: Djarrwark ga Dhalwaŋu

    Primary title: Djarrwark ga Dhalwanu

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