Search the Collection
Advanced Search

Reproduced courtesy of Datjirri #2 Wunungmurra

Baraltja and Yikariwuy

Date: 1998
Overall: 1760 × 1060 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Datjirri #2 Wunungmurra
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033812
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This painting portrays the saltwater country that the Dhalwaŋu clan shares with the Madarrpa clan. It depicts Baraltja, the home of the lightning snake Burrut'tji and features two portrayals of the snake. There are six depictions of stingray totems with livers on their backs to symbolise the child. The artist has used the miny'tji (sacred clan design) to represent the waters of the Dhalwaŋu clan in Blue Mud Bay and the Yikariwuy land.
    SignificanceThis painting is representative of the people belonging to the Yirritja moiety of the Dhalwa?u clan in the homeland of Gurrumurru. It was produced by the traditional owners of East Arnhem Land for the Saltwater Project, an attempt to educate outsiders about their laws, traditions, stories and land rights.

    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 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 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 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

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Web title: Baraltja and Yikariwuy

    Primary title: Baraltja and Yikariwuy

    Related People

    Discuss this Object


    Please log in to add a comment.