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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

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



Mawalan Marika


circa 1908 - 26 Nov 1967

Language group

Rirratjingu, Arnhem region


bottom: At Arnhem Bay - the life cycle of the Djan'kawu Sisters. The women's blood is represented on the two circles at left. On the right side the large circle represents the flow of water, the two smaller circles, the placenta. They are shown with strings tying their legs back. The four separate circular shapes in this section represent the sacred conical mats for the female children.

lower left: This section shows the sacred objects (rangga). Eight were planted to make shade for the children. Four other rangga (djuda trees) are shown growing at the extreme left in Ngaymil country.

lower right: A place at Arnhem Bay where the two Sisters and Djan'kawu watch a sunrise and sunset that can be seen in the two panels on the extreme right. Djan'kawu is urinating.

upper: Depicts a site near Milingimbi The two sisters give birth to the people of Milingimbi. The yellow figures are men and boys, the black figures women and girls. The placenta of one of the women is also depicted.

top left: At Galiwin'ku (Elcho Island). After death the spirits of the Djan'kawu sisters receive new names. The circle in the centre is a swamp. The lines on either side depict lily leaves. The red background behind the sisters represents their grave. After this they go to the spirit land.

top right: Depicts Djan'kawu at Yalangbara (Port Bradshaw). The sacred rangga with feathered pendants is shown. Djan'kawu (also identified in the original documentation as Mawalan, the artist) is shown looking at the rangga and singing. The cross-hatching in this section represents earth and grass.

© Information provided by the artist

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000


Other Titles

Djanggawo Creation Story

Djang'kawu Creation Story

Djanggawul Creation Story

Djanggawo Creation Story

Djanggawull Creation Story

Djang'kawu story no. 5



Media category

Bark painting

Materials used

natural pigments on bark


188.0 x 64.8 cm (irreg.)

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of Dr Stuart Scougall 1959


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Mawalan Marika

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 8 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 18 publications


Claire Armstrong, Art World (issue 6), 'National Portrait Gallery', pg. 64-69, Sydney, Dec 2008-Jan 2009, 68 (colour illus.), 69. Open Air: Portraits in the Landscape review.

Edmund Capon AM, OBE, Art Gallery of New South Wales: highlights from the collection, Sydney, 2008, 30, 31 (colour illus.).

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art', pg. 208-241, Sydney, 1999, 212 (colour illus.).

David Leeming, David Leeming and Margaret Leeming, Encyclopedia of Creation Myths, 1994, (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, 23 (illus.), 28. 71; plate 12

Ewen McDonald, AGNSW Collections, 'From Colonialism to late Modernism', pg. 7-106, Sydney, 1994, 93 (colour illus.).

Howard Morphy, One sun one moon: Aboriginal art in Australia, ‘Making the familiar unfamiliar: The aesthetics of Eastern Arnhem Land art’, pg. 73-77, Sydney, 2007, 77 (colour illus.).

John Mundine and Renée Porter, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Aboriginal and Melanesian', pg. 57-71, Sydney, 1988, 60, 61 (colour illus.).

Margo Neale, Yiribana, Sydney, 1994, 6 (colour illus.).

Margo Neale, Yiribana: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collection, Sydney, 1994, 38, 39 (colour illus.), 137, 139.

Barry Pearce, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Introduction', pg. 10-16, Sydney, 2000, 13 (colour illus.), 301.

Barry Pearce, Look, 'A quiet love affair: private passion over 33 years gives birth to a book', pg. 26-29, Sydney, Sep 2014, 29 (colour illus.).

Hetti Perkins and Ken Watson, A material thing - objects from the collection, Sydney, 1999, 6.

Laura Critchley, Dynasties: the Marika family, Sydney, 2003, (colour illus.). This episode of 'Dynasties' was first screened on ABC television on Monday 1 December 2003 at 8:00pm.

Andrew Sayers, Australian art, 'Icon and abstraction 1951-68', pg. 174-195, Oxford, 2001, 192-193, 194 (illus.). plate no. 112

Andrew Sayers, Sarah Engledow and Wally Caruana, Open air: portraits in the landscape, 'Open air: Portraits in the landscape', pg. 3-66, Sydney, 2008, 6, 9 (colour illus.), 15. NOTE: Photograph of the artist, Mawalan Marika appears on page 8.

Ken Watson, Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia, 'Mawalan Marika', pg. 78, Sydney, 2004, 78, 79 (colour illus.).

Margie West (Editor), Yalangbara: art of the Djang'kawu, Darwin, 2008, 69 (colour illus.).