Skip to content

Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open. We are observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Read the latest visit information, including hours




Contemporary art

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

View More:


Baratjala - lightning and the rock



Noŋgirrŋa Marawili


circa 1939 -

Language group

Madarrpa, Arnhem region


The art centre documentation for this work states;

“Some of the designs show the rock set in deep water between the electric ‘curse’ that the snake spits into the sky in the form of lightning, and the spray of the sea trying to shift the immovable rock foundation of the Madarrpa. Yurr’yunna is the word used to describe the rough waves overtopping the rock and the spray flying into the sky. It is said that the serpents ‘spit’ lightning - ‘guykthun’. The extended meaning of ‘guykthun' though includes “make something sacred or taboo through saying ‘magic words’. In our language we ‘swear’ an ‘oath’ which sanctifies the speech but both words can also mean to utter profanities. We also understand that ‘curse’ can mean bad language but also a spell. The Top End has one of the world’s greatest number of lightning strikes at this time of year. These works show the sanctifying words being spat across the sky in lightning form. The lightning’s sacred power hits the sea spray rising from where it has just smashed into the rock. The energies captured in this painting are almost a match for those in the real life of a Top End wet season.
This journey from the sacred to the descriptive shifts in this work. She has reduced the Law to its elements unclothed in sacred design. Her identity cannot be separated from her art and so although she disavows any sacred intent the echo of miny’tji persists.”




Media category

Bark painting

Materials used

natural pigments on bark


201.0 x 85.0 cm


Purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors tour to Arnhem Land 2018

Accession number


Artist information

Noŋgirrŋa Marawili

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history