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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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Evil spirit woman, Nadubi






The Aboriginal people are particularly afraid of the Nadubi spirit people, whose usual habitat is in the low scrub which often surrounds the springs at the base of the Arnhem Land plateau.

The Nadubi, not knowing the way to make fire, have to eat their fish and game raw. They are often so hungry that they steal the meat that Aboriginal people have placed in the trees overnight, the honey from their honey baskets, and sometimes even eat the ashes and charcoal where the fat has been spilt. No aboriginal has seen a Nadubi, although he has often heard them grunting in the darkness.

The Nadubi have barbed spines growing from their knees, their elbows and in the case of women, from their vulva. When they see an aboriginal travelling by himself, or drinking from the springs, the Nadubi sneak up behind him to shoot one of their barbed spines into his body. If it is known that the aboriginal has been near the haunts of the Nadubi, his friends immediately call the medicine man to remove the spine. Sometimes the medicine man succeeds, but more often the aboriginal dies.

[Charles P. Mountford, 'Records of the American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land vol. 1: Art, myth and symbolism', pg. 203]




Media category


Materials used

natural pigments on paper on cardboard


58.0 x 46.0 cm image/sheet; 76.0 x 63.1 x 3.6 cm frame

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of the Commonwealth Government 1956


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information


Works in the collection



Where the work was made
Gunbalanya (Oenpelli)

Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 4 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, 203 (illus.). plate no. 56D

National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Purchases and Acquisitions for 1956 National Art Gallery of N.S.W., Sydney, 1956, 22. 54; titled 'Evil spirit woman, Nadubi'

Hetti Perkins, Crossing country: the alchemy of western Arnhem Land art, Sydney, 2004, 144 (colour illus.), 230.