1905 - 1980
Goanna Totem. Male and Female are depicted, the females having eggs connected together. Separating line in the middle is a layer of rock. At a time of great drought the goanna people tried to find water. They dug and dug down through the rocks until finally they were stopped by the rock shown in the painting. They turned to stone and their remains can be seen in the shape of a mountain at Arnhem Bay. The mountain still looks like a goanna.
The painting is used in an increase ceremony and as a teaching aid.
[Information supplied by the Methodist Overseas Mission, Milingimbi]
© Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2005
Bark painting (Goanna totem)
natural pigments on bark
76.8 x 36.2 cm
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of Dr Stuart Scougall 1959
Not on display
© Tom Djawa. Licensed by Aboriginal Artist Agency Ltd
Shown in 2 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
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, 18 (illus.), 24. cat.no. 46; plate no. 18
Charles P Mountford (Editor), Records of the American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land 1: Art, myth and symbolism, Melbourne, 1956, (illus.). plate no. 118 'B'