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Reproduced courtesy of Rerrkirrwanga Mununggurr

Dhäpuyŋu Mäna

Date: 1998
Overall: 1690 × 900 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Rerrkirrwanga Mununggurr
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033813
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting depicts the shark Mäna as it reaches its final resting place at Umbakumba on Groote Eylandt. At the top of the painting the sacred sandbar off Umbakumba is depicted with a black rectangle and the coiled Bundhamarr (sacred string) that Mäna followed. Mäna's sacred spear is portrayed to the left of him. The miny'tji (sacred clan design) represents how Mäna agitated the waters of the Saltwater Country belonging to the Dhäpuyŋu clan.
    SignificanceThis bark is one of 80 that were painted by the Yol?u people in East Arnhem Land in an effort to educate outsiders of their laws, ownership and rights in the region. It is representative of the people belonging to the Dhuwa moiety of the Djapu clan in the homeland of Wandawuy.
    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: Dhäpuyŋu Mäna

    Primary title: Dhapuynu Mana

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