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Contemporary art

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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Wangarra Spirit Being

circa 1986


England Banggala


circa 1925 - Dec 2001

Language group

Burarra, Arnhem region


This devil spirit called wangarra, inhabits the An-ngiliny clan waterhole called Wangarra A-juwana. This is a dense patch of jungle with a network of creeks that is adjoined by the two large billabongs called Boporlinymarr and Birduk Mu-yerrnyjiya.

The painting depicts five wangarra figures and four rocks which lie inside the water at Wangarra A-juwana. Across the centre of the painting is a band which represents a small creek that runs through Wangarra A-juwana. Two of the wangarra spirits share one arm; this represents the water running from the little creeks, flowing out into all corners of the patch of jungle.

On the edge of the water at Wangarra A-juwana stands a huge banyan tree. The wangarra spirits live inside this tree. At times the tree opens up, and the wangarra spirits come out and go down into the water where they lie inside the rocks. The spirits can lure and trap people inside the banyan tree, which is one reason why Wangarra A-juwana is a dangerous place for those who do not have the right authority to go there. Whan Banggala enters this place he calls out to his ancestors to identify himself as a rightful member of the An-nguliny clan, so that he and his companians are protected from the spirits that live there.

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000


Place where the work was made

Central Arnhem Land Northern Territory Australia


circa 1986

Media category


Materials used

ochre on carved wood


267.0 x 15.0 x 11.0 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of Dr Peter Elliott 1993


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

England Banggala

Works in the collection



Where the work was made
Central Arnhem Land

Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 2 publications


Ewen McDonald (Editor), Biennale of Sydney 2000, Sydney, 2000. no catalogue numbers

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