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An image of Death of Muraruma, the turtle man by Mawalan Marika

Mawalan Marika

(Australia circa 1908 – 26 Nov 1967)

Language group
Rirratjingu, Arnhem region
Death of Muraruma, the turtle man
Other titles:
Death of Muraruma (Muramura) the turtle man
Place of origin
YirrkalaNorth-east Arnhem LandNorthern TerritoryAustralia
circa 1960
Media category
Bark painting
Materials used
natural pigments on bark

118.1 x 55.9 cm

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of Dr Stuart Scougall 1960
Accession number
© Mawalan Marika. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney
Not on display
Further information

The founding leader of the Rirratjingu clan, Muraruma, stole a young wife from a neighbouring clan. After she expressed homesickness he killed her. Her unburied body was found by her relatives who followed Muraruma to Melville Bay where he was cooking a catch of fish and stingray on a fire represented in the bottom section. Bugligbe (horizontal figure) is shown to the upper left with five of his friends. Upon meeting Muraruma called out to his three wives to bring more food. At his fourth call Bugligbe's friends came out of hiding and speared Muraruma who, before dying, managed to kill Bugligbe. In the center of the painting Muraruma is shown with a number of spears sticking into him. Surrounding him are Bugligbe's three wives, Muraruma's five wives and his two sisters, who tried unsuccessfully to help him. Muraruma's spirit, shown in the top right panel with a wooden fishing spear, was seen by Muraruma's four brothers to the NW of Yirrkala where it vanished into the sea and reappeared in the form of a rock. The spirit and rock with waves are shown in top left section.

© Information provided by the artist

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000

Exhibition history (3)

Purchases and Acquisitions for 1960, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Mar 1961–23 Apr 1961

Gamarada, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Nov 1996–16 Feb 1997

Australian icons: twenty artists from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Aug 2000–03 Dec 2000