Yiningurna - Snake woman
attrib. Neningirukwa Jaragba
The mythical snake woman, Jiningbirna, with her four children, once lived at Jining-madja, situated on a point which separates Hemple and Thompson Bays at Port Langdon. Whilst there some men tried to capture the woman but she fled, taking her children with her. But when she reached Aitira, at Hemple Bay, she found that two of her children had been lost in the flight. At Jiningbirna headland are two stones which were once the two children of Jiningbirna.
After living for some time on the beach at Aitira, the woman, with her two remaining children, travelled inland and died. Their bodies are now large boulders, in which their spirits still live.
[Yiningurna - The snake woman] has, as the main design, the snake-woman, Jiningbirna, who in her present form, is described as a dangerous snake about five feet in length. The snake was not identified. The rectangles projecting from the left and right-hand edges of the design indicate the piles of stones thrown out by Jiningbirna. The largest stone on the left hand edge of the painting is the metamorphosed body of Jiningbirna, which is now set up in the sand at Aitira. The two white figures within the main design are the two children which Jiningbirna lost when she fled from Jining-madja.
[Charles P. Mountford, 'Records of the American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land vol. 1: Art, myth and symbolism', pg. 79-81]
The snake woman, Jiningbirna
Yiningurna - The snake woman
natural pigments on bark
47.0 x 73.7 cm
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of the Commonwealth Government 1956
Not on display
Where the work was made
Shown in 2 exhibitions
Bulada, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 23 Aug 1997–14 Dec 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
Referenced in 3 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.
National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Purchases and Acquisitions for 1956 National Art Gallery of N.S.W., Sydney, 1956, 21. cat.no. 46; titled ' The snake woman, Jiningbirna'
Unknown (Editor), Records of the American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land 1: Art, myth and symbolism, Melbourne, 1956, 79, 81 (illus.). plate no. 10A