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An image of Djan'kawu creation story by Mawalan Marika

Mawalan Marika

(Australia circa 1908 – 26 Nov 1967)

Language group
Rirratjingu, Arnhem region
Djan'kawu creation story, from the series Djan'kawu story
Other titles:
Djanggawo Creation Story
Djang'kawu Creation Story
Djanggawul Creation Story
Djanggawo Creation Story
Djanggawull Creation Story
Djang'kawu story no. 5
Place of origin
YirrkalaNorth-east Arnhem LandNorthern TerritoryAustralia
Media category
Bark painting
Materials used
natural pigments on bark

188.0 x 64.8 cm (irreg.)

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of Dr Stuart Scougall 1959
Accession number
© Mawalan Marika. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney
Not on display
Further information

bottom: At Arnhem Bay - the life cycle of the Djan'kawu Sisters. The women's blood is represented on the two circles at left. On the right side the large circle represents the flow of water, the two smaller circles, the placenta. They are shown with strings tying their legs back. The four separate circular shapes in this section represent the sacred conical mats for the female children.

lower left: This section shows the sacred objects (rangga). Eight were planted to make shade for the children. Four other rangga (djuda trees) are shown growing at the extreme left in Ngaymil country.

lower right: A place at Arnhem Bay where the two Sisters and Djan'kawu watch a sunrise and sunset that can be seen in the two panels on the extreme right. Djan'kawu is urinating.

upper: Depicts a site near Milingimbi The two sisters give birth to the people of Milingimbi. The yellow figures are men and boys, the black figures women and girls. The placenta of one of the women is also depicted.

top left: At Galiwin'ku (Elcho Island). After death the spirits of the Djan'kawu sisters receive new names. The circle in the centre is a swamp. The lines on either side depict lily leaves. The red background behind the sisters represents their grave. After this they go to the spirit land.

top right: Depicts Djan'kawu at Yalangbara (Port Bradshaw). The sacred rangga with feathered pendants is shown. Djan'kawu (also identified in the original documentation as Mawalan, the artist) is shown looking at the rangga and singing. The cross-hatching in this section represents earth and grass.

© Information provided by the artist

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000

Bibliography (18)

Claire Armstrong, Art World (issue 6), 'National Portrait Gallery', pg. 64-69, Darlinghurst, Dec 2008-Jan 2009, 68 (colour illus.), 69. Open Air: Portraits in the Landscape review.

Edmund Capon, Art Gallery of New South Wales: highlights from the collection, Sydney, 2008, 30, 31 (colour illus.).

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art', pg. 208-241, Sydney, 1999, 212 (colour illus.).

David Leeming, David Leeming and Margaret Leeming, Encyclopedia of Creation Myths, 1994, (illus.).

Frederick D. McCarthy, Australian Aboriginal art: bark paintings, carved figures, sacred and secular objects: an exhibition arranged by the State art galleries of Australia, 1960-1961, 'Introduction', pg. 7-17, Sydney, 1960, 12, 23 (illus.), 28. 71; plate 12

Ewen McDonald (Editor), The Art Gallery of New South Wales Collections, 'From Colonialism to late Modernism', pg. 7-106, Sydney, 1994, 93 (colour illus.).

Howard Morphy, One sun one moon: Aboriginal art in Australia, ‘Making the familiar unfamiliar: The aesthetics of Eastern Arnhem Land art’, pg. 73-77, Sydney, 2007, 77 (colour illus.).

John Mundine and Renée Porter, Art Gallery of New South Wales Handbook, 'Aboriginal and Melanesian', pg. 57-71, Sydney, 1988, 60, 61 (colour illus.).

Margo Neale, Yiribana: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection, Sydney, 1994, 38, 39 (colour illus.), 137, 139.

Margo Neale, Yiribana, Sydney, 1994, 6 (colour illus.).

Barry Pearce, Look, 'A quiet love affair: private passion over 33 years gives birth to a book', pg. 26-29, Newtown, Sep 2014, 29 (colour illus.).

Barry Pearce, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Introduction', pg. 10-16, Sydney, 2000, 13 (colour illus.), 301.

Hetti Perkins and Ken Watson, A material thing - objects from the collection, Sydney, 1999, 6.

Laura Critchley, Dynasties: the Marika family, Sydney, 2003, (colour illus.). This episode of 'Dynasties' was first screened on ABC television on Monday 1 December 2003 at 8:00pm.

Andrew Sayers, Sarah Engledow and Wally Caruana, Open air: portraits in the landscape, 'Open air: Portraits in the landscape', pg. 3-66, Sydney, 2008, 6, 9 (colour illus.), 15. NOTE: Photograph of the artist, Mawalan Marika appears on page 8.

Andrew Sayers, Australian art, 'Icon and abstraction 1951-68', pg. 174-195, Oxford, 2001, 192-193, 194 (illus.). plate no. 112

Ken Watson, Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia, 'Mawalan Marika', pg. 78, Sydney, 2004, 78, 79 (colour illus.).

Margie West (Editor), Yalangbara: art of the Djang'kawu, Darwin, 2008, 69 (colour illus.).

Exhibition history (8)

Australian Aboriginal art: bark paintings, carved figures, sacred and secular objects: an exhibition arranged by the State art galleries of Australia, 1960-1961:

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

A material thing - Objects from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 31 Aug 1998–09 Feb 1999

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

Yalangbara, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 11 May 2006–23 Jul 2006

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

Open Air: Portraits in the landscape, National Portrait Gallery [Parliamentary Zone], Canberra, 04 Dec 2008–01 Mar 2009

Yalangbara: art of the Djang'kawu: