Australia 1927 – 1999
The serpent that bit Gurrmirringu
1974 Description: Central black tree, bird at top, snakes at bottom and tortoise
Place made: Ramingining, central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, bark paintings, natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
One day, Gurrmirringu was carrying home the fruits of a good day’s hunting when he rested by a waterhole in the shade of a wurrumbuku [white berry tree] to cook some of his catch. Some stories record that an evil spirit lurked in the trees roots causing a king brown snake to rise from the roots and bite Gurrmirringu, killing him.
The evil tree spirit was an occasional subject of Malangi’s. The evil connotation was expressed in painting by a beaked and clawed diagonal figure and jagged forms merging with the gnarled tree forms.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra