Important Aboriginal + Oceanic Art
24 March 2010

Ginger Riley Munduwalawala

(1927 - 2002)

synthetic polymer paint on canvas

169.5 x 255.0 cm

$70,000 - 90,000
Sold for $78,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 13 - 24 March 2010, Melbourne

Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne
Private collection, Melbourne
Sotheby’s, Melbourne, 25 July 2005, lot 107
Private collection, Victoria


Mother Country in Mind: The Art of Ginger Riley Munduwalawala, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 16 July - 21 September 1997, cat. 107 (label attached verso)

Catalogue text

Ginger Riley Munduwalawala was born on the coastal salt-water country of the Mara people in south east Arnhem Land and was the custodian of his mother’s country, which extends from the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria along the Limmen Bight River to the Four Archers - ‘ My mother country is in my mind’.1 This painting, Limmen Bight Country 1989, a large and early canvas by Munduwalawala, is centered on this expansive country, incorporating elements of the landscape, scenes of hunting and camp life together with images of the ancient mythological creation stories.

According to Munduwalawala’s story the snake Garimala, shown top left, created the Four Archers, an area regarded as ‘the centre of the earth, where all things start and finish...'2 Below this formation is the shark liver tree, a ceremonial totem guarded by two snakes and perched above is Ngak Ngak, the white-breasted sea eagle who is the protector and guardian spirit of this country. Although human figures engage in everyday activity, they are clearly of secondary importance to both the ancestral beings Garimala and Ngak Ngak, and the land itself.

Whilst still in his adolescence, Munduwalawala met the watercolourist Albert Namatjira, whose style was to have an ongoing impact upon his practice. The meeting with Namatjira was to resonate considerably, forging ‘Riley’s idea that the colours of the land as seen in his imagination could be captured in art with munangu paints.’3

Nearly two decades after his first attempt, a second opportunity arose when the Northern Territory Open College of TAFE established a printmaking workshop in the Ngukurr Aboriginal Community, formerly known as the Roper River Mission. Here Munduwalawala was able to experiment once again with the munanga colours of red, blue and yellow, mixing them to create green, purple and pink.

In 1992 Munduwalawala received the Alice Springs Art Prize, that same year undertaking a commission for the Australian Embassy in Beijing. The following year he won the first National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Commission Art Award, and in 1996 was awarded the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council Fellowship for 1997-1998 in recognition of his outstanding achievements.

1. Ryan, J., Ginger Riley, National Gallery of Victoria, 1997, p. 15
2. ibid, p. 32
3. ibid, p. 29