Search the Collection
Advanced Search

Reproduced courtesy of Naminapu Maymuru


Date: 1998
Overall: 1560 × 580 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Naminapu Maymuru
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033798
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting represents the story of the ancestral Guwak men whose canoe capsized in the wake of a turtle. The men refused help from other sea creatures and were transformed into stars after they drowned. In the corners of the painting cross-hatching marks represent storm clouds and rain. This story is connected to the mortuary rites of the Maŋgalili clan and the Milŋiyawuy (Milky Way), where the souls of the deceased are turned into stars.

    SignificanceThis bark painting represents an important story of the Ma?galili clan in the saltwater homeland of the Djarrakpi. It is one of 80 barks painted for the Saltwater Project in an effort to affirm Indigenous land ownership, laws and rights.

    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: Milŋiyawuy

    Primary title: Milniyawuy

    Related People

    Discuss this Object


    Please log in to add a comment.