Skip to content

Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open. We are observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Read the latest visit information




Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

View More:


Yiningurna - Snake woman



attrib. Neningirukwa Jaragba


Language group

Anindilyakwa, Arnhem region


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]


Other Titles

The snake woman, Jiningbirna

Yiningurna - The snake woman

Place where the work was made

Groote Eylandt Northern Territory Australia



Media category

Bark painting

Materials used

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

Accession number


Artist information

attrib. Neningirukwa Jaragba

Works in the collection



Where the work was made
Groote Eylandt

Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

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.

Charles P Mountford (Editor), Records of the American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land 1: Art, myth and symbolism, Melbourne, 1956, 79, 81 (illus.). plate no. 10A

National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Purchases and Acquisitions for 1956 National Art Gallery of N.S.W., Sydney, 1956, 21. 46; titled ' The snake woman, Jiningbirna'