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Reproduced courtesy of Djambawa Marawili


Date: 1998
Overall: 1420 × 550 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Djambawa Marawili
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033799
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting depicts an aerial view of the sacred saltwater of Yathikpa and four icons associated with the ancestral dugong hunt. These consist of the sacred submerged rock Marrtjala, the swimming dugong, the hunter’s canoe and their floating paddle. The artist has used the miny'tji (sacred clan design) to represent the beach, saltwater, ancestral fire and people of Yathikpa to express their title to the Saltwater Country in East Arnhem Land.
    SignificanceThis bark was painted as part of the Saltwater Project by the traditional Yol?u of East Arnhem Land. It represents the people belonging to the Yirritja moeity of the Madarrpa clan in the homeland of Baniyala. The paintings are an attempt by the Indiegnous community to educate outsiders about their stories, laws and customs.

    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: Yathikpa

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Primary title: Yathikpa

    Assigned title: Yathikpa [2]

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