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Liyagalawumirr people

Ramingining, central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia born 1933 /1937

Wagilag sister's child [Wagilag child] 1994 Description: figure with cross hatching on torso, spots on face, brown bands on torso.
Place made: Ramingining, central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, natural earth pigments on wood

Dimensions: 149.0 h x 17.0 w x 16.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1995
Accession No: NGA 95.306
Image rights: © Philip Gudthaykudthay. Licensed by Viscopy

Philip Gudthaykudthay is the most senior artist from Ramingining and the last active artist from the Milingimbi school of painters. Taught by great artists, such as his father Dawidi and his uncle Djawa, Gudthaykudthay has been painting since the 1960s. His totems include Burruwara the native cat, Wititj the olive python, the water goanna and Badurru the hollow log.

The story depicted here is about the two Wagilag sisters, who came out of the southern interior to the Liyagalawumirr waterhole at Mirarrmina. There the younger sister profaned the pool of the great python by allowing her blood to fall into the waterhole. Because of this the women and the children were swallowed by the python amidst thunderstorms and rain, the first wet season. A great flood covered the land and all of the other sacred pythons stood up with their heads in the clouds and talked to each other with voices like thunder.

The Mirarrmina python confessed to eating the two women, of his own moiety, and fell to earth making a depression in the ground. A big wind blew across the land making the first dry season. The python vomited the women up but swallowed them again before going back into the waterhole.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008