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Yiningurna - Snake woman



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  • Details

    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


  • About

    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]

  • Places

    Where the work was made

    Groote Eylandt

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 3 publications