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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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Cat and crow legend

collected 1960


Dawidi Birritjama


1921 - 1970

Language group

Liyagalawumirr, Arnhem region


The crows took some hair which is part of the tassel of the spear thrower (shown vertically left of centre) and whirled it. This was their nest. It grew and grew until it reached the sky and turned into a stone. Today one half of it stands in Liayagalawumirr clan country and the other half is the Milky Way. The Cat was out fishing. He caught a great many fish and after he had eaten them he put the bones in a paper bark receptacle (shown upper right) and came back to camp. When he got there he saw the Crow up in the sky. You can see them in the Milky Way today. The paper bark basket is a garma (totem) for the Liagalawumirr people (source: William Lloyd Warner, 'A black civilization: a social study of an Australian tribe', Harper, 1958, pg. 535).

Besides cats, crows, fish, bones, basket and spear thrower, a drone pipe or bones post and three figures, two of them being speared, are shown.

© Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2005



collected 1960

Media category

Bark painting

Materials used

natural pigments on bark


105.4 x 47.0 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of Dr Stuart Scougall 1960


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Dawidi Birritjama

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

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, 41 (colour illus.).

Cara Pinchbeck, Lindy Allen and Louise Hamby, Art from Milingimbi, Sydney, 2016, 67 (colour illus.), 140.

William Lloyd Warner, A black civilization: a social study of an Australian tribe, Australia, 1958. General reference to the cat and crow legend.