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


Wagilak sisters story

circa 1959


Dawidi Birritjama


1921 – 1970

Language group: Liyagalawumirr, Arnhem region

Artist profile

  • Details

    Other Title
    Wauwalag Sisters story
    Place where the work was made
    Milingimbi Central Arnhem Land Northern Territory Australia
    circa 1959
    Media category
    Bark painting
    Materials used
    natural pigments on bark
    75.0 x 37.0 cm (irreg.)
    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

    Central within this work is the form of Wititj (an olive python) encircling the Wägilak sisters and their children. Angered by the presence of the sisters at his waterhole of Mirarrmina, Wititj rose into the sky, his flicking tongue creating lightning and his spit forming towering clouds that generate the first monsoon, flooding the earth with its deluge.

    As the sisters had not respected marriage laws, they and their children were swallowed by Wititj as punishment. To boast of what he had done, Wititj again rose to the skies but was ostracised by other serpents who alerted him to the fact that the sisters were his relatives and of the same moiety. He had therefore also broken the law, and on becoming ill regurgitated the sisters and fell to the ground.

    The resting place of Wititj is marked by Dawidi as the dominant triangular motif to the left of the work. Also evident is the semi-circular form of the waterhole and the plant and animal life of this inland freshwater area.

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 4 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, 42 (colour illus.).

    • Margo Neale, Yiribana: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection, Sydney, 1994, 42, 44 (colour illus.), 136, 139. plate no. 18

    • Cara Pinchbeck, Art from Milingimbi, ‘Dawidi’, pg. 64-71, Sydney, 2016, 69 (colour illus.), 140.

Other works by Dawidi Birritjama

See all 7 works