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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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Wagilak sisters story

circa 1959


Dawidi Birritjama


1921 - 1970

Language group

Liyagalawumirr, Arnhem region


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.


Other Title

Wauwalag Sisters story


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


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


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.