Australia 1911 – 1981
The Angurugu River
Anindilyakwa (Groote Eylandt), Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, bark paintings, natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark
The Angurugu River on the western coast of Groote Eylandt was created by three Alawudawarra (or ancestral beings), Yukurrirridangwa the Sawfish, Dumarnindangwa the Manta Ray and Manggabaramerra the Shovel-nosed Shark. These ancestors swam from Blue Mud Bay on the mainland, to the west coast of the island, whereupon the Sawfish cut a channel in the ground and freshwater gushed out of springs to fill the channel. The Shovel-nosed Shark remained in the river and transformed into a large rock above a site known as Angurugu, while its companions travelled on and finally reached Lake Angurugubira on the east coast.
The black ground in the central section of the painting represents the Angurugu River. The Sawfish is depicted in various locations, cutting out the river bank. In the lower left is a form that indicates sandbars at the mouth of the river, while in the top corners the springs are depicted with water flowing down to fill the river. The Manta Ray, Dumarnindangwa, is shown in the middle of the bark, and to its lower left is Yimaduwaya, a young Stingray. Above these is the Shovel-nosed Shark. The dotted line that runs through the image traces the paths of human beings fishing for the descendants of the creator beings in animal form.
Nandabitta was born before the first Christian mission was established on Groote Eylandt in 1921, and grew to be a prolific artist. The subjects of his paintings include the origins of Anindilyakwa people and their land, as well as historical paintings such as those about the annual visits of Macassan fishermen from Indonesia.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010