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ANMM Collection Reproduced courtesy of Wukun Wanambi

Marrakulu Monuk

Date: 1998
Overall: 827 × 385 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: 00033752
Place Manufactured:Arnhem Land

User Terms

    This bark painting portrays a view of the Marrakulu Saltwater looking towards the horizon with a cross-section of the land below. At the centre of the bark is a depiction of the hollow log that was cut down by Wuyal, the Sugarbag man as he looked for honey. In the time of the ancestors Wuyal searched the land, felling trees and changing the landscape. The artist has used the miny'tji or sacred clan design belonging to the people of the Marrakulu waters in East Arnhem Land. This indicates their rights, ownership and connection with the region.
    SignificanceThis is one of 80 barks painted by the Yol?u people of East Arnhem Land for the Saltwater Project. This was an effort to educate outsiders about local Indigenous stories, land ownership and sacred sites. The Yol?u have been active in the struggle for land rights since the 1960s and this bark represents their attempts to gain legal recognition of their traditional homeland, the Marrakulu Saltwater.

    HistoryThe Yol?u people are intrinsically linked to the land and the saltwater coastline. They inhabit a landscape that was formed by the actions of ancestral beings. In 1996 an illegal fishing camp was discovered at Garranali, a sacred Aboriginal area in East Arnhem Land. It instigated the local Yolnu people to begin painting a series of barks that demonstrated the rules, philosophies and stories of their region. The end result was the production of 80 barks portraying the Saltwater Country of East Arnhem Land.

    In 1963 a Swiss mining company began plans to build a mine on sacred Yolnu lands. In opposition the Aboriginal community organised a petition that was signed on bark and sent to Parliament. The proposed development by the mining company and Australian Government was challenged by the Yol?u in court. However their claims of land ownership were dismissed. This historic event highlighted the issue of Aboriginal land rights in Australia.

    In 1976 the Aboriginal Land Rights Act was passed in the Northern Territory, now seen as the benchmark in the recognition of Aboriginal land rights. The Yol?u were decreed the legal owners of northeast Arnhem Land, however their ownership did not extend into the Saltwater coastline. Only in July 2008 have Indigenous rights and use of the Arnhem Land coast been given precedence over commercial interests and fishing. The issue of Aboriginal land rights, customs and laws continues to be contentious in the Australian legal system and wider community.
    Additional Titles

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Web title: Marrakulu Monuk

    Primary title: Marrakulu Monuk

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