Journey to Sea Country
Discover the story of the Yolŋu people and the Blue Mud Bay legal case.
‘…this exhibit blows away Dior, Bowie, Mapplethorpe – ALL of it. And it's ours from the Yolŋu people – their Dreamtime on bark paintings. I'm in total awe!’
Gapu-Monuk Saltwater: Journey to Sea Country, is 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.
Created 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 also includes 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.
The paintings were deemed the equivalent of title deeds to the sea rights of coastal waters. And almost a decade later, in July 2008, the High Court of Australia confirmed that traditional owners of the Blue Mud Bay region in North-East Arnhem Land, together with traditional owners of almost the entire Northern Territory coastline, have exclusive access rights to tidal waters overlying Aboriginal land.
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.
The Yirrkala Bark Paintings of Sea Country map hundreds of kilometres of the coast, showing physical and social features throughout the region. Visitors will see a host of vibrant images including ancestral beings, ancient mariners, symbolic icons and a host of spiritual creatures including snakes, crocodiles, fish, turtles and birds, all set against traditional sacred designs representing fresh, tidal and salt water.
"...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.
Open daily, 9.30am–5pm, from 9 November 2017 - February 2019.
Included in the FREE Galleries Ticket.
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The museum store has developed a unique range of Indigenous-made products that speak to the stories and themes in the Gapu-Monuk exhibition. Available online or in the museum store you’ll find an assortment of books, kitchenware, unique bark paintings, contemporary sculptures and other collectibles. The range has been sourced directly from suppliers that not only acknowledge the traditional land owners of Australia but also feature unique artworks and designs created by Indigenous artists. The stories and environments of Indigenous culture are transformed into visual images and designs by weavers, painters, potters, textile artists and makers of traditional objects. The suppliers the museum work with receive a percentage of profits directly endowed to the Indigenous communities and artists to ensure their works are being ethically promoted. Shop online.
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.
Eora First People
Extended to 6:00 pm in January
Last boarding time for Submarine and Tall Ships – 4.10pm
Closed Christmas Day 25 December.
+61 2 9298 3777
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© Copyright 2013
Australia National Maritime Museum
Every day 9.30 am - 5 pm
Extend to 6.00 pm in January
Closed Xmas Day 25 Dec.
2 Murrey Street
sydney NSW 2000, AU
+61 2 9298 3777