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Reproduced courtesy of Mawalan #2 Marika

Gunda Muruwirri

Date: 1998
Overall: 928 × 510 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Mawalan #2 Marika
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033758
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This painting represents the water between the mainland of East Arnhem Land and Dhambaliya (Bremer Island) with the sacred rock Muruwirri situated between them. This rock holds great significance to the Indigenous owners of the Saltwater Country. The arched bands at the centre and edges of this bark represent rough seas. The King Brown snake appears at the centre of the painting and refers to the ancestral origin of the water.
    SignificanceThis painting represents the ancestral story of the Rirratjinu clan in the homeland of Yalanbara in East Arnhem Land. It is one of 80 barks painted by the Yol?u people in an important effort to educate others of their stories, laws and sacred sites.
    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.

    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

    Web title: Gunda Muruwirri

    Primary title: Gunda Muruwirri

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

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