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Reproduced courtesy of Bakulanay Marawili

Djunungayanu at Yathikpa

Date: 1998
Overall: 1010 × 460 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Bakulanay Marawili
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033756
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This painting depicts the Djunungayanu (dugong), a key totem in the Madarrpa clan's fire creation story at Yathikpa, a bay within Blue Mud Bay. The ancestral story recounts how hunters chased the dugong towards a dangerous underwater rock. The hunt caused rough seas and the boiling of the saltwater from the ancestral fire. The artist has used the miny'tji (sacred clan design) to represent the fire and saltwater surrounding the dugong.
    SignificanceThis bark is representative of the efforts of the Yolnu people to express their stories and traditional ownership of East Arnhem Land. It highlights the fire creation story at Yathikpa, integral to the people of the Madarrpa clan in the homeland of Baniyala.

    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 stressed the importance of Yol?u land ownership, laws and codes of behaviour for those who interacted with the landscape.

    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 for the recognition of Aboriginal land ownership in Australia. Despite this the issues surrounding Indigenous land, rights, customs and law continue to be contentious in the Australian legal system and wider community.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Djunungayanu at Yathikpa

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Web title: Djunungayanu at Yathikpa

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