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


Cat and crow legend

collected 1960


Dawidi Birritjama


1921 – 1970

Language group: Liyagalawumirr, Arnhem region

Artist profile

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Milingimbi Central Arnhem Land Northern Territory Australia
    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
    © Dawidi Estate. Licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Dawidi Birritjama

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    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

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 3 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, 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.

Other works by Dawidi Birritjama

See all 7 works