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Samuel Manggudja

(Australia 1909 – 1983)

Language group
Kunwinjku, Arnhem region
Man with leprosy
Other titles:
Man who had leprosy
Place of origin
Western Arnhem LandNorthern TerritoryAustralia
Media category
Bark painting
Materials used
natural pigments on bark

75.0 x 39.7 cm (irreg.)

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of Dr Stuart Scougall 1961
Accession number
© Estate of Samuel Manggudji and Injalak Arts. licensed by Viscopy, Sydney
Not on display
Further information

Samuel Manggudja (Garnarradj) was born in the Gumaderr River region of western Arnhem Land, and spent his early years living a traditional lifestyle. His father took him to Goulburn Island Mission as a young boy and he attended school there. Later, in 1930, he went to join his promised wife in Gunbalanya (Oenpelli), where he lived for the rest of his life. Manggudja had strong knowledge of ceremonial matters, and was a key assistant in the research work conducted by the anthropologists Ronald and Catherine Berndt in Gunbalanya in the late 1940s. Ronald Berndt collected a number of paintings by Manggudja in 1947, and these are now housed in the Berndt Museum of Anthropology at the University of Western Australia, Perth. Manggudja's work in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, is part of the extensive gift by Dr Stuart Scougall, and dates from 1960. These works characteristically feature dotted infill for the figures, a style that relates strongly to the rock art of Manggudja's clan lands. It was only later, in the 1970s, that the crosshatched
infill, borrowed from ceremonial painting, became an ubiquitous style in the western Arnhem Land region.

Manggudja's painting, 'Man with leprosy', 1961, relates to many rock paintings that were the product of sorcery practices. Paintings of figures with elongated or detached limbs are said to have been used to magically transfer these afflictions to a nominated victim. Once the image was created, the name of the victim was called out over the painting. 'Figure with the long fingers', 1960, relates to paintings of the namorrorddo, or shooting star spirit, that is said to grasp the souls of the living with its clawed hands and rush away across the sky with them.

Manggudja continued to develop as an artist throughout the 1970s and his works were included in exhibitions arranged by the then Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council and in its Oenpelli Bark Painting publication Of 1979. Samuel Manggudja served on the Aboriginal Arts Board from 1973 to 1975.

Luke Taylor in 'Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia', Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2004

© Art Gallery of New South Wales

Bibliography (6)

Wally Caruana, Art and Australia (Vol. 42, No. 4), 'Crossing country: The alchemy of western Arnhem Land art', pg. 494-495, Paddington, Jun 2005-Aug 2005, 494 (colour illus.).

Margo Neale, Yiribana: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection, Sydney, 1994, 28, 30, 31 (colour illus.), 137, 139. plate no. 13

Maurice O'Riordan, National Aids Bulletin, 'Everyone's Business: Love, magic and the art of resistance', pg. 20-23, Darlinghurst, 1998, 21 (illus.).

Hetti Perkins, Crossing country: the alchemy of western Arnhem Land art, Sydney, 2004, 45 (colour illus.), 225.

Luke Taylor, Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia, 'Samuel Manggudja', pg. 74, Sydney, 2004, 74, 75 (colour illus.).

Luke Taylor, One sun one moon: Aboriginal art in Australia, ‘Painting Djang: Art and inspiration in Western Arnhem Land’, pg. 85-91, Sydney, 2007, 86 (colour illus.).

Exhibition history (3)

Purchases and Acquisitions for 1961, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Apr 1962–25 May 1962

Crossing country: the alchemy of Western Arnhem Land art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 24 Sep 2004–12 Dec 2004

One sun, one moon, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 03 Jul 2007–02 Dec 2007