Saltwater ~ Gapu-Monuk

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 November 2017

    Saltwater ~ Gapu-Monuk celebrates the landmark Yirrkala Bark Paintings of Sea Country, recognising Indigenous Sea Rights.

    This stunning exhibition explores 50 of the 80 original Saltwater Collection, made from the prolific stringybark tree, along with Mokuy (spirit) carvings, mortuary pole paintings on hollowed trees and a lipalipa (dugout canoe). 

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

    Saltwater ~ Gapu-Monuk reveals sacred clan designs demonstrating enduring connection to specific sea country.

    These barks are historic as they are sacred, as these particular sea rights paintings 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 Dr Gumana AO*

    Dhalwaŋu clan, Yirritja moiety

    The exhibition also features audio visual displays with oral histories, song, dance and photography that provide context to the stories and images contained in the barks.

    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 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.

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