Adjira-madja is an increase centre for dugongs….The dugong, a sea mammal, has come to the surface to breathe. When the Aboriginal people see the creature submerge, they paddle to that place and sing the magical chant which exhorts it to return to the surface at the same spot. If the dugong obeys the chant, it is killed.
[The dugong] is the painting of the dugong, the flesh of which is a favourite food of the Aboriginal people. The conventionalised designs on the body represent the skin markings of the animal.
[Charles P. Mountford, 'Records of the American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land vol.1: Art, myth and symbolism', pg. 67]
natural pigments on bark
35.6 x 63.5 cm
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of the Commonwealth Government 1956
Not on display
© the artist courtesy Anindilyakwa Arts and Cultural Centre
Where the work was made
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Gamarada, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Nov 1996–16 Feb 1997
Mountford Gifts: Works from the American Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land 1948, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 21 Mar 2009–03 Jun 2009
Our spirits lie in the water, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Nov 2014–01 Nov 2015
Referenced in 5 publications
Jonathan Jones, Mountford Gifts: Works from the American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land 1948, 'Mountford Gifts: Works from the American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land 1948', pg. 1-5, Sydney, 2009, 3, 4.
Tony Tuckson, Christopher Hodges and Helen Eager, Gamarada, Sydney, 1996, 13 (colour illus.).
Look, Sydney, Aug 2009, 40 (colour illus.). Membership events section.
Purchases and Acquisitions for 1956 National Art Gallery of N.S.W., Sydney, 1956, 21. cat.no. 21; titled 'The Dugong'
Records of the American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land 1: Art, myth and symbolism, Melbourne, 1956, 67 (illus.). plate no. 20D