We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


The mortuary rites for Muraruma (Muramura)

circa 1960


Mawalan Marika


circa 1908 – 26 Nov 1967

Language group: Rirratjingu, Arnhem region

Artist profile

  • Details

    Other Title
    Mortuary rites for Muraruma
    Place where the work was made
    Yirrkala North-east Arnhem Land Northern Territory Australia
    circa 1960
    Media category
    Bark painting
    Materials used
    natural pigments on bark
    109.2 x 55.9 cm
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Gift of Dr Stuart Scougall 1960
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Estate of Mawalan Marika/Copyright Agency

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    Artist information
    Mawalan Marika

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    In the center section Muraruma's body is being disinterred by two of his clansmen. Decay associated with maggots is depicted by white dashes around the body and the cross-hatching represents the earth dug from the grave and dust raised by the dancers. A yidaki (digeridoo) player with paperbark resonator, songman with clapsticks and one of Muraruma's wives are all depicted in this section. The four dancing figures (lower left) painted with clay and carrying dancing sticks are taking part in the ceremony. The bones were then wrapped in paper bark and taken to Yirrkala and kept until a bone-carrying bark was prepared. A shield of bushes was erected (shown by vertical red, yellow and black lines) to make private their activities. The bone-carrying bark was cut, rolled into a cylindrical shape and painted, the bones placed therein, and the ends stopped up with wild bees wax. The white dashes around the receptacle represent maggots. Five dancing figures (lower right) are depicted taking part in the ceremony. After two years, a hollow log bone post was made and painted into which the bones were transferred after being broken up. In the top section four clansmen are depicted erecting the post. Five are shown dancing, carrying dancing sticks, and three women (top left) are carrying banyan string. The vertical strip of red represents an area cleared for dancing, and the cross-hatching denotes that the scene is amongst trees. The wooden shovel spears and woomera shown are of the type used to kill Muraruma.

    © Information provided by the artist

    Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 3 exhibitions

Other works by Mawalan Marika

See all 16 works