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Reproduced courtesy of Nongirrnga Marawili

Baru at Baraltja

Date: 1998
Overall: 1900 × 500 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Nongirrnga Marawili
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033808
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting shows Bäru the ancestral crocodile and Mundukual the lightning snake in the waters of Baraltja. The snake is depicted in the centre of the painting tasting the fresh and salt water of the Baraltja food plain and spitting lightning into the sky. The painting depicts the Madarrpa clan token of Bäru and the Yirrtja clan totem of Balin the barramundi.
    SignificanceThis ancestral story is representative of the people belonging to the Yirritja moiety of the Madarrpa clan in the Baniyala homeland. It was produced for the Saltwater Project, a series of paintings by the Yol?u people to educate outsiders about their traditional stories and laws.
    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 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 snake Burrut'tji is associated with the story of the people from the Madarrpa clan. In the time of the clan’s ancestors Burrut'tji made its way underground to the people's homeland. The snake tasted the fresh water in the river and spat lightning bolts into the sky to herald the beginning of the wet season.

    The Saltwater Project began in 1996 after 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 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 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: Baru at Baraltja

    Web title: Baru at Baraltja

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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