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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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Wagilak sisters story - Wititj (olive python)



Dawidi Birritjama


1921 - 1970

Language group

Liyagalawumirr, Arnhem region


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


Other Title

The Python Yulunggur (Wagilag Sisters Story)



Media category

Bark painting

Materials used

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

Accession number


Artist information

Dawidi Birritjama

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 4 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


Jonathan Cooper (Editor), The Art Gallery of New South Wales Bulletin, 'Yiribana', pg. 23-25, Sydney, Aug 1997-Oct 1997, 23 (colour illus.).

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. 45; plate no. 1

Cara Pinchbeck, Art from Milingimbi, ‘Dawidi’, pg. 64-71, Sydney, 2016, 71 (colour illus.), 140.