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Reproduced courtesy of Wanyubi Marika


Date: 1998
Overall: 1130 × 490 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Wanyubi Marika
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033759
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This painting represents the whale Daymirri as it is escorted through the Saltwater Country near Yirrkala by two Long Tom fish totems. The miny'tji or sacred clan design symbolises the saltwater of Dhambaliya around the sacred rock Manhala. On the back of the whale's back barnacles can be seen. This bark was painted as part of the Saltwater Project by the Yolnu people in East Arnhem Land to affirm their stories and ownership of the region.
    SignificanceThis story is fundamental to the people of the Rirratjinu clan in the homeland of Yalanbara. It demonstrates the importance of the whale Daymirri who can manifest itself in the form of the sacred rock Manhala.
    HistoryThe Yolnu 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 Yolnu people’s way of life and prominent themes in their bark paintings.

    In 1996 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 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 Yolnu land ownership, laws and codes of behaviour for those who interacted with the landscape and sacred Indigenous places.

    The Yolnu 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

    Primary title: Daymirri

    Web title: Daymirri

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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