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Reproduced courtesy of Ganda Munyarryun

Wanguri Gapu

Date: 1998
Overall: 1870 × 820 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Ganda Munyarryun
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033804
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This painting refers to the saltwater country of the Wanguri clan in the Nalwarung Straits, situated between Inglis Island and the mainland. It represents the calm waters of Rarrandarra where the clear water allows hunters to see turtles for miles. The artist has portrayed four Limin (squid), two Madi (rock lobsters) and two Gwarrtji (Hawkesbill turtles). Often objects that are identifiable in Yolŋu paintings have deeper meanings and translations that are reserved for certain members of the clan.
    SignificanceThe traditional Yol?u owners of East Arnhem Land painted a series of 80 barks to express their stories, land rights and laws. This bark is representative of the people belonging to the Yirritja moiety of the Wanguri clan in the homeland of Dhalinbuy.
    HistoryThe Yol?u people of Arnhem Land inhabit a landscape that was formed by the actions of ancestral beings, who can 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 in 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 feature prominently 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. This 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 local Yolnu 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 and allowed the Indigenous community to educate others about the social history, geography and personal stories of their traditional homeland. They stressed the importance of Yol?u land ownership, laws and codes of behaviour for those who interacted with the landscape and sacred Indigenous places.

    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

    Primary title: Wanguri Gapu

    Web title: Wanguri Gapu

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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