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:


Death of Muraruma, the turtle man

circa 1960


Mawalan Marika


circa 1908 - 26 Nov 1967

Language group

Rirratjingu, Arnhem region


The founding leader of the Rirratjingu clan, Muraruma, stole a young wife from a neighbouring clan. After she expressed homesickness he killed her. Her unburied body was found by her relatives who followed Muraruma to Melville Bay where he was cooking a catch of fish and stingray on a fire represented in the bottom section. Bugligbe (horizontal figure) is shown to the upper left with five of his friends. Upon meeting Muraruma called out to his three wives to bring more food. At his fourth call Bugligbe's friends came out of hiding and speared Muraruma who, before dying, managed to kill Bugligbe. In the center of the painting Muraruma is shown with a number of spears sticking into him. Surrounding him are Bugligbe's three wives, Muraruma's five wives and his two sisters, who tried unsuccessfully to help him. Muraruma's spirit, shown in the top right panel with a wooden fishing spear, was seen by Muraruma's four brothers to the NW of Yirrkala where it vanished into the sea and reappeared in the form of a rock. The spirit and rock with waves are shown in top left section.

© Information provided by the artist

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000


Other Title

Death of Muraruma (Muramura) the turtle man


circa 1960

Media category

Bark painting

Materials used

natural pigments on bark


118.1 x 55.9 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of Dr Stuart Scougall 1960


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Mawalan Marika

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history