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Reproduced courtesy of Wukun Wanambi


Date: 1998
Overall: 1690 × 850 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Wukun Wanambi
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033814
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting refers to the Marrakulu clan’s ownership of the sea country in Trial Bay, East Arnhem Land. The sacred rocks Bamurrunu, Dharrninda and Nyulanyula are portrayed with three large white ovals at the top of the painting. They are surrounded by Dhumar bees. The miny'tji (scared clan design) uses cross hatching marks to represent the foam at the mouth of the River Gurka'wuy and Gathulmakarr, the sacred freshwater.
    SignificanceThis painting is representative of the people belonging to the Dhuwa moiety of the Marrakulu clan in the homeland of Gurka'wuy. It was painted as part of the Saltwater Project by the Yol?u community in an effort to educate outsiders about their traditional laws, stories and 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 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 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 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

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Primary title: Gathulmakarr

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