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Reproduced courtesy of Bakulanay Marawili

Burrut' tji II

Date: 1998
Overall: 1090 × 390 mm
Medium: Natural earth 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: 00033757
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This painting depicts the lightning snake Burrut'tji and the place where the Baraltja River flows into Blue Mud Bay. It refers to a story associated with the people of the Madarrpa clan in the homeland of Baniyala. The bark features two Miny'tji (sacred clan design); the white design representing the bones of the snake and the red and yellow symbolising the fallen leaves of the mangrove trees. 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 bark represents the important ancestral story of the snake Burrut'tji, an integral part of the people belonging to 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 Yolnu people’s way of life and prominent themes in their bark paintings.

    The snake Burrut'tji is associated with the story of the people from the Madarrpa clan. In the time of the clan’s ancestors Burrut'tji made its way underground to the people's homeland. The snake tasted the fresh water in the river and spat lightning bolts into the sky to herald the beginning of the wet season. This painting tells the story of the saltwater landscape and the connection of the Madarrpa clan with their ancestors and the land. Burrut'tji is represented as a hollow log in the mortuary ceremonies of the Yolnu.

    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 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 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: Burrut' tji II

    Web title: Burrut' tji II

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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