We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Djaykung (File snakes)

circa 1960


Mithinari Gurruwiwi


1929 – 01 Nov 1976

Language group: Galpu, Arnhem region

Artist profile

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Yirrkala North-east Arnhem Land Northern Territory Australia
    circa 1960
    Media category
    Bark painting
    Materials used
    natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
    280.0 x 70.0 cm (irreg.)
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Gift of Professor Harry Messel 1987
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Estate of Mithinari Gurruwiwi. Licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Mithinari Gurruwiwi

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Mithinari Gurruwiwi was an exceptional and prolific artist from the Blue Mud Bay area of north-east Arnhem Land. Born in 1929, Gurruwiwi was taught to paint by Mawalan Marika and his works predominantly refer to the Galpu clan’s lands around Caledon Bay and Garrimala, further inland. Gurruwiwi’s works offer a seamless combination of figurative elements and abstract clan designs. His exquisite infilling techniques of delicate dots, fine lines and intricate cross-hatching, contrasted with bold areas of pure colour, enliven his works. This is especially evident in this work, one of the finest bark paintings in the Gallery’s collection. Completed when Gurruwiwi was only 30, the work depicts waterlily-covered billabongs that are home to plump file snakes, valued food sources that are just part of the riches to be found in Galpu country.

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 8 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 9 publications

Other works by Mithinari Gurruwiwi