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Seagull mourning ceremony



Mawalan Marika


circa 1908 – 26 Nov 1967

Language group: Rirratjingu, Arnhem region

Artist profile

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Yirrkala North-east Arnhem Land Northern Territory Australia
    Media category
    Bark painting
    Materials used
    natural pigments on bark
    143.5 x 54.0 cm
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

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

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Mawalan Marika

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    For the ceremony the men make a wooden representation of the seagull about six inches high and it is tied to the head of the leader of the dances. To it are attached three lengths of banyan tree string, made by the women, which represent the wings, legs and tail of the seagull. These strings are held by the dancing men who are accompanied by a singing man and yidaki (digeridoo) player shown on the left. The dancing men of two visiting groups are shown in brown. In the upper section there are seagulls with their natural food - fish. Also shown are varying lengths of string, the longest representing the group from Arnhem Bay and the shortest representing the Rirratjingu of Yirrkala. At the end of the ceremony the seagull representation is destroyed but the string is kept for further use. The seagull is a garma (low totem) of the Rirratjingu group. The story of when the bird people were men in the ancestral past and then turned into birds is associated with the Yirrkala area. During the ceremony the spirit of the dead person is present.

    © Information provided by the artist

    Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 4 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 3 publications

    • Edmund Capon AM, OBE, Steven Miller, Tony Tuckson, James Scougall, Mollie Gowing, Harry Messel, Craig Brush, Ronald Fine, Alison Fine, Gordon Davies, Rosalind Davies, Christopher Hodges, Helen Eager, Rosemary Gow, Sandra Phillips, Daphne Wallace and Ken Watson, Gamarada, Sydney, 1996, 43 (colour illus.).

    • Hal Missingham, Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, 'Acquisitions for 1960', pg. 58-67, Sydney, Apr 1961, 66, 67 (illus.).

    • Hetti Perkins and Ken Watson, A material thing - objects from the collection, Sydney, 1999.

Other works by Mawalan Marika

See all 16 works