Gapu-Monuk Saltwater

Journey to Sea Country

Miniyawany Yunupinu, From Biranybirany, bark painting, ANMM Collection 00033802.

This stunning exhibition presents 50 bark paintings which document the spiritual and legal basis of the Yolŋu people’s ownership of land in northeast Arnhem Land in Northern Australia.

  • Coming 9 November 2017

    The exhibition Gapu-Monuk Saltwater Journey to Sea Country, recognising Indigenous Sea Rights will be an acknowledgement of the significant and stunning story of the Yolŋu people of northeast Arnhem Land and their fight for recognition of Indigenous Sea Rights and the Blue Mud Bay Legal Case. 

    In essence it is a display of Yirrkala Bark Paintings of Sea Country also known as the Saltwater Collection by 47 Yolŋu artists who petitioned for sea rights by painting their Sea Countries onto bark and revealing sacred patterns or designs known as miny’tji, that were created by Ancestral Beings.

    This stunning exhibition will also include Mokuy (spirit) carvings, Larrakitj (mortuary pole paintings on hollowed trees) and other traditional and contemporary works. 

    Yolŋu artists from fifteen clans and eighteen homeland communities in east Arnhem Land created the sacred paintings in a response initiated by Madarrpa clan leader Djambawa Marawili in 1997, following his indignation at discovering illegal fishing on a sacred site in his clan estate.

    Gapu-Monuk Saltwater reveals sacred clan designs demonstrating enduring connection to specific sea country. The Yirrkala Bark Paintings of Sea Country are as historic as they are sacred, as they will never be produced again.

    "...For there lies stories and songs, feelings. These are our feelings. We can feel the water as it goes out and as it comes in. That is why we love the saltwater and sea country."

    Statement from Son of Birrkitji*, Dhalwaŋu clan, Yirritja moiety

    Gapu-Monuk are words from the Yolŋu matha language, of north-east Arnhem Land. 
    gapu (water), monuk (salt), describes Saltwater.

    The museum would like to advise visitors that this exhibition may contain the names of, and artwork by, deceased Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.

    Image: Miniyawany Yunupiŋu, From Biranybirany, bark painting, ANMM Collection 00033802. 


    Open daily, 9.30am–5pm, from 9 November 2017.  

    Included in the FREE Galleries Ticket.

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    The Saltwater catalogue is available at the museum store and features all 80 bark paintings and their stories.  

    The Australian National Maritime Museum acknowledges the Yolngu people as the traditional custodians of the lands and waters of northeast Arnhem Land. We pay our respects to them and their elders both past and present.

    The Yirrkala bark paintings are held in the ANMM collection and were purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery.

    Djambawa Marawili, Contemporary Madarrpa, bark painting, ANMM Collection 00033775. Bunbatjiwuy Dhamarrandji, Bul’manydji at Gurala, bark painting, ANMM Collection 00033806.Miniyawany Yunupinu, From Biranybirany, bark painting, ANMM Collection 00033802.Naminapu Maymuru, Milnijawuy, bark painting, ANMM Collection 00033798.Dr Gumana AO, Djarrwark ga Dhalwanu, bark painting, ANMM Collection 00033797. Mokuy spirit figures by Nawurapu Wunungmurra, an artist of the Yolnu people of Arnhem Land in the North Territory. (c) Nawurapu Wunungmurra, source Buku- Larrngay Mulka Arts centre.

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