Wagilak sisters story - Wititj (olive python)
The painting shows the python Julunggul [sic], who appears in the sacred Wagilag Sister's Story. A simple version of the story goes like this. The Wagilag are two sisters who traveled from south Arnhem Land (the Roper River area), eventually reaching a sacred waterhole or well in which, unknown to them the python Julunggul lived. The foods which they caught and collected, when placed on a fire, jumped up and disappeared into the waterhole. When one of the sisters gave birth to a baby, Julunggul smelt the afterbirth blood. Disturbed by this and by all the creatures jumping into his waterhole, the monstrous python emerged and swallowed the two sisters and the child. According to one version of the story, this symbolized the onset of the monsoon season. Later he vomited them up.
Virtually the complete surface of the bark sheet is taken up with Julunggul, resting coiled with eggs at the bottom of the sacred waterhole.
[Information supplied by the Methodist Overseas Mission, Milingimbi with original documentation probably by Dorothy Bennett]
© Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2005
The Python Yulunggur (Wagilag Sisters Story)
natural pigments on bark
71.8 x 38.1 cm
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of Dr Stuart Scougall 1959
Not on display
© Dawidi Estate. Licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd, Sydney
Where the work was made
Shown in 4 exhibitions
Australian Aboriginal art: bark paintings, carved figures, sacred and secular objects: an exhibition arranged by the State art galleries of Australia, 1960-1961:
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 17 Aug 1960–18 Sep 1960
- Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane Oct 1960–Oct 1960
- National Gallery of Victoria [Swanston Street], Melbourne Nov 1960–Dec 1960
- Western Australian Art Gallery, Perth Feb 1961–Mar 1961
- National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide Apr 1961–Apr 1961
- Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart May 1961–Jun 1961
Bulada, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 23 Aug 1997–14 Dec 1997
ochre: bark paintings from the Collection (2000-01), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 02 Nov 2000–06 May 2001
Art from Milingimbi: taking memories back, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 Nov 2016–29 Jan 2017
Referenced in 2 publications
Frederick D. McCarthy, Australian Aboriginal art: bark paintings, carved figures, sacred and secular objects: an exhibition arranged by the State art galleries of Australia, 1960-1961, 'Introduction', pg. 7-17, Sydney, 1960, 12, 19 (illus.), 24. cat.no. 45; plate no. 1
Jonathan Cooper (Editor), The Art Gallery of New South Wales Bulletin, 'Yiribana', pg. 23-25, Sydney, Aug 1997-Oct 1997, 23 (colour illus.).