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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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The story of Djirt


Narritjin Maymuru


circa 1916 - 1981

Language group

Manggalili, Arnhem region


A small boy called Djirt found a dead fish on the beach and began to cook it on the fire. His father came along and asked for a piece of the fish, but Djirt was selfish and refused to give him any. The father therefore vowed that the next time he went fishing he would not give his son any of the catch.

When the father returned from a day's fishing with a large catch, Djirt asked for some but the father refused. Djirt cried so hard that he grew feathers and became a bird and flew to the top of a tree. His father looked up and from where he was cooking the fish saw what had happened, and decided also to become a bird to keep his son company.

At either side of the upper panel is shown the cooking place, with a fish on the fire. Djirt and his father are shown a number of times as they change into birds. The tree which they flew to is shown at centre and to the left of the tree is a group of relatives chanting the story of what had happened. Three men are beating clapsticks and one is blowing a didgeridoo into a bark dish so as to produce a richer sound.

Below this the two birds are shown, and in the bottom panel. Djirt's mother is carrying a container of yams on her head. She is flanked by two digging sticks.
Harry Messel


Other Title

The story of Djirrt

Media category

Bark painting

Materials used

natural pigments on bark


104.0 x 25.0 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not signed.


Gift of Harry Messel 1987


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Narritjin Maymuru

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

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