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


Djan'kawu creation story, from the series Djan'kawu story



Mawalan Marika


circa 1908 – 26 Nov 1967

Language group: Rirratjingu, Arnhem region

Artist profile

  • Details

    Other Titles
    Djang'kawu myth no. 2
    Djannggawo myth no. 2
    Djanggawul myth no. 2
    Djanggawull myth no. 2
    Djang'kawu story no. 2
    Place where the work was made
    Yirrkala North-east Arnhem Land Northern Territory Australia
    Media category
    Bark painting
    Materials used
    natural pigments on bark
    190.5 x 63.5 cm
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Gift of Dr Stuart Scougall 1959
    South Building, ground level, 20th-century galleries
    Accession number
    © Mawalan Marika. Licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Mawalan Marika

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Mawalan Marika was a great law man with extensive sacred knowledge. He led key parts of the Djang’kawu and Wawilak ceremonies, which are the basis for most of his paintings. Marika was one of the first artists at Yirrkala to begin painting barks for sale, and a passionate advocate for his people’s cultural and land rights.

    The Djang’kawu, a man and two sisters, are the primary ancestral creator beings for the Dhuwa moiety of central and north eastern Arnhem Land. Yalangbara, where the Djang’kawu landed after their canoe journey from Burralku (an island to the east), is the most important location painted by Marika. The Marika family consider themselves to be Mayarr Mayarr – the children of the Djang’kawu. In a series of five large bark paintings, Marika depicted the Djang’kawu journey by canoe across the sea, and their activities after they landed at Yalangbara. These paintings are considered to be the most comprehensive visual narratives of the Rirratjingu ancestral song cycle in existence.

    This bark depicts, at bottom: The goanna (djanda) is depicted in the centre while on either side are shown male and female goannas on the sandhills at Yalangbara (Port Bradshaw). Djanda is represented lying on a large rock. The semi-circles are goanna holes while the zig-zag lines are the tracks of the goanna going into holes in the rock.

    lower left: This section shows goanna tracks through the sandhills.

    lower right: The wild turkey is depicted eating wild berries and nuts.

    upper left: Flying foxes are depicted in a gadmura tree.

    upper right: The goanna (djanda) is shown with a 'singing tree' (casuarina).

    top left: A male and two female goannas play in the sand.

    top right: The camp of Djan'kawu and his sisters. He calls out names of the related clan language groups of the area. They are depicted by the squares. Black inner corner Rirratjingu, black upper square Marrakulu, top red Djarlwark, lower square Ngaymil.

    The cross-hatching shows aspects of the environment such as sandhills, sand falling away as the goanna travels across the sandhill, goanna tracks, the wild turkey nest, etc.

    © Information provided by the artist, and Australian art department, AGNSW

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 5 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 2 publications

    • Margie West (Editor), Yalangbara: art of the Djang'kawu, Darwin, 2008, 46 (colour illus.).

    • Judith White (Editor), Look, 'End of a dream ... almost!', pg. 13, Melbourne, Nov 2000, 13 (colour illus.).

Other works by Mawalan Marika

See all 16 works