An image of Seagull mourning ceremony

Mawalan Marika

(Australia circa 1908 – 26 Nov 1967)

Yirrkala, Arnhem region
Language group
Rirratjingu, Arnhem region

Seagull mourning ceremony

Not on display
Further information

For the ceremony the men make a wooden representation of the seagull about six inches high and it is tied to the head of the leader of the dances. To it are attached three lengths of banyan tree string, made by the women, which represent the wings, legs and tail of the seagull. These strings are held by the dancing men who are accompanied by a singing man and yidaki (digeridoo) player shown on the left. The dancing men of two visiting groups are shown in brown. In the upper section there are seagulls with their natural food - fish. Also shown are varying lengths of string, the longest representing the group from Arnhem Bay and the shortest representing the Rirratjingu of Yirrkala. At the end of the ceremony the seagull representation is destroyed but the string is kept for further use. The seagull is a garma (low totem) of the Rirratjingu group. The story of when the bird people were men in the ancestral past and then turned into birds is associated with the Yirrkala area. During the ceremony the spirit of the dead person is present.

© Information provided by the artist

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000

Place of origin
Yirrkala, North-east Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia
Bark painting
natural pigments on bark
143.5 x 54.0 cm
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Gift of Dr Stuart Scougall 1960
Accession number
© Mawalan Marika. Licensed by Copyright Agency