Important Aboriginal + Oceanic Art
18 May 2011


(1927 - 2002)

synthetic polymer paint on canvas

103.5 x 204.0 cm

inscribed verso: Alcaston Gallery cat. AK 470

$60,000 - 80,000

Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne
Private collection, Melbourne

Catalogue text

Munduwalawala’s images generally interpret in paint a sequence of events, which are focused on his mother’s country around the Limmen Bight and the Limmen Bight River in the Northern Territory of Australia. This country is the area around the Four Archers, a geographical formation about 45km inland on the Limmen Bight River. This country includes the Limmen Bight River and the Maria and Beatrice Islands at the mouth of the river. The artist’s mother is the cloud and the sun, and his paintings often depict heavy rain-filled clouds or fine rain and bright sunlight, his creation story.

Munduwalawala explained that in the guise of Garimala the creator snakes travelled from Arnhem Land and that they live in a waterhole which they created near the Four Archers. He also recounted that they travelled from the Four Archers to Ngamiyukandji, a rock in the Limmen Bight River near its confluence with the Cox River. They disappeared under the water and became the Rainbow Serpent Bulukbun.

In another manifestation this snake hero called Bulukbun, becomes a fire-breathing serpent-dragon and rises out of the sea and kills people. He is often depicted surfacing among a group of small pyramid-shaped islands. These islands or stones are shown located in the sea around his Mother’s Island. During initiation ceremonies on this island, the initiates displeased Bulukbun causing him to become very angry. Munduwalawala claimed that the more aggressive Bulukbun or Wawalu becomes, the more he raises the spines on his back, and on some occasions many of the boys were burnt.

The most distinctive image in Munduwalawala’s work is the totemic white breasted sea eagle, Ngak Ngak, often shown singly or as a repeated image. Ngak Ngak fulfils the role of a guardian - looking after the country; Munduwalawala explained that there is an island near the mouth of the Limmen Bight River, which was formed when Ngak Ngak flew over it. This is Yumunkuni, or Beatrice Island. This is his mother’s country. The presence of Ngak Ngak is always explained: ‘this Ngak Ngak looking at this man’ or ‘this message stick’. Ngak Ngak is frequently shown looking at his own image; Ngak Ngak is generally shown as white.