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Contemporary art

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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Balangjangalan spirit

late 1980s


Paddy Fordham Wainburranga


circa 1932 - 31 May 2006

Language group

Rembarrnga, Arnhem region


Paddy Fordham Wainburranga is a Rembarrnga painter, sculptor, printmaker and dancer. Born in central Arnhem Land, he began painting for the art market in 1983 and has painted subject matter encompassing not only his ancestral stories but also works focussed on the political and social changes that he has experienced during his life.

Wainburranga's practice of sculpting spirit figures developed from his involvement with the Aboriginal Memorial of 1988. This installation of 200 hollow log coffins represents 200 years of dispossession and genocidal policies in regard to Aboriginal people and is on permanent display at the NGA. Wainburranga contributed twenty-three painted hollow-log coffins to this project. Subsequently the carving of Balangjangalan Spirits has become an important element in his artistic practice.

Documentation states: The Balangjangalan Spirit is an ancestral spirit that has helped with the creation of Paddy's country. The symbols on these figures represent ancestral events that occurred during the creation of his country. The events have been recreated with drawing on these figures. They are also seen in his bark paintings and on his hollow log coffins, such as those at the National Gallery of Australia.

© Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2005



late 1980s

Media category


Materials used

natural earth pigments and acrylic binder on wood


260.0 x 8.0 x 8.0 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of Christopher Hodges and Helen Eager 2005


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Paddy Fordham Wainburranga

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

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

  • Sentient lands, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 04 Jun 2016–08 Oct 2017

Referenced in 1 publication


Hetti Perkins and Margie West, One sun one moon: Aboriginal art in Australia, Sydney, 2007, 12 (colour illus.).