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Reproduced courtesy of Galuma Maymuru


Date: 1998
Overall: 1870 × 630 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Galuma Maymuru
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033803
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory
Related Place:Djarrakpi,

User Terms

    This bark painting portrays the sacred rock Balanaŋyu in the saltwater country of Njarrakpi. The ancestor Muwandi of the Maŋgalili clan is depicted spearing Noykal, the ancestral Kingfish. After Noykal was speared he swam away and left a path through the Yirritja lands that now connects the various clans in kinship. On the rock Balanaŋyu at high tide Yolŋu fisherman have been spearing fish for many generations.
    SignificanceThis painting is representative of the people belonging to the Yirritja moiety of the Ma?galili clan in the homeland of Djarrakpi. It was produced for the Saltwater Project in an attempt to by the Yol?u to express their stories, laws and land rights.
    HistoryThe Yol?u people of Arnhem Land inhabit a landscape that was formed by the actions of ancestral beings, who 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 Yol?u people’s way of life and prominent themes in their bark paintings.

    The Saltwater Project was instigated in 1996 when an illegal fishing camp was discovered at Garranali, a sacred Aboriginal site in East Arnhem Land. The 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 Yol?u people to produce a series of bark paintings that expressed the rules, philosophies and stories of their region. The project culminated in the production of 80 barks that stressed the importance of Yol?u land ownership, laws and codes of behaviour for those who interacted with the landscape.

    The Yol?u 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 of Indigenous land ownership, rights, customs and law continue to be contentious in the Australian legal system and wider community.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Balanayŋu

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Primary title: Balanaynu

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