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Reproduced courtesy of Miniyawany Yunupingu

Baru at Murrmurrna I

Date: 1998
Overall: 1900 × 800 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Miniyawany Yunupingu
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033811
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This painting represents the Makarrata, a dispute resolution ceremony taking place between Bäru the crocodile and Gawanalkmirri the stingray. Bäru represents the Gumatji clan from Biranybirany and Gawanalkmirri the Yarrwidi Gumatji. These ancestral beings clashed when Bäru moved from Biranybirany into the area around Murrmurrna Island. The conflict was resolved when Bäru, the wrongdoer, was speared in the thigh. This practice brought peace to the area.
    SignificanceThis bark painting is representative of the people belonging to the Yirritja moiety of the Gumatji clan in the homeland of Biranybirany. It was painted for the Saltwater Project by the traditional Yol?u people of East Arnhem Land.
    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 Saltwater Project began 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 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 and allowed the Indigenous community to educate others about the social history, geography and personal stories of their traditional homeland. It also 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 for 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

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Web title: Baru at Murrmurrna I

    Primary title: Baru at Murrmurrna I

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