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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. His father asked him to share the fish but Djirt refused. Then Djirt's father went fishing in a dug-out which is shown twice near the top of the painting, with paddles, woomera and fishing spear. The father caught many fish and began to cook them in a special cooking place shown at the centre of the painting. Djirt asked his father to share the fish, but the father said: "No, this will pay you back".

Djirt was so unhappy with this that he began to weep and wail and slowly changed into a bird and flew to the top of a tree. His father was so upset that he to changed into a bird and flew into the tree to join his son. The two birds are shown at the top of the painting sitting in the tree and the metamorphoses is depicted in the body of the painting.

At the bottom left we see Djirt's mother and aunt digging for yams. The mother has a dilly bag around her neck. Djirt's two uncles are shown at bottom left weaving a dilly bag with bush string.

Harry Messel


Other Title

The story of Djirrt

Media category

Bark painting

Materials used

natural pigments on bark


92.0 x 40.0 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of Harry Messel 1989


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Narritjin Maymuru

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Edmund Capon AM, OBE, Steven Miller, Tony Tuckson, James Scougall, Mollie Gowing, Harry Messel, Craig Brush, Ronald Fine, Alison Fine, Gordon Davies, Rosalind Davies, Christopher Hodges, Helen Eager, Rosemary Gow, Sandra Phillips, Daphne Wallace and Ken Watson, Gamarada, Sydney, 1996, 55 (colour illus.).