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Law Articles & Essays

The Protection of "At The Waterhole" by John Bulun Bulun

Aboriginal art and the recognition of private and communal rights

John Bulun Bulun is an Aboriginal artist who lives in the area of Maningrida, an Aboriginal township about 600 kms. east of Darwin in central Arnhem land.

When I first met him in 1988, he lived in an outstation, known as Garmedi,with a population of about 20 people. Bulun Bulun was one of a group of three highly successful bark painters living at the outstation, with the other artists being Jack Wun Wun and his son Michael. These artists painted on bark, using traditional ochres (applying the ochres mixed with water using both traditional and Western brushes). They would also use glue to give a sheen to the surface of the bark on which they were painting. Their work was often very elaborate, combining complex tribal imagery with detailed cross-hatching.