An image of Djan'kawu creation story

Mawalan Marika

(Australia circa 1908 – 26 Nov 1967)

Yirrkala, Arnhem region
Language group
Rirratjingu, Arnhem region

Wandjuk Marika

(Australia circa 1930 – 16 Jun 1987)

Yirrkala, Arnhem region
Language group
Rirratjingu, Arnhem region

Mathaman Marika

(Australia circa 1915 – 11 Jan 1970)

Yirrkala, Arnhem region
Language group
Rirratjingu, Arnhem region

Waḏaymu Ganambarr

(Australia circa 1934 – 1997)

Yirrkala, Arnhem region
Language group
Ŋaymil, Arnhem region

Djan'kawu creation story, from the series Djan'kawu story

Other titles:
Djannggawo myth no. 1, Djanggawul myth no. 1, Djanggawull myth no. 1, Djang'kawu story no. 1, Djanggawul Myth. The journey from Buralgo to Jelangbarra
20th & 21st c Australian art
Further information

This painting, the first of the series, depicts the journey of Djan'kawu and his two sisters from Burralku, an island far to the east, and their arrival at Yalangbara (Port Bradshaw). The Djan'kawu, as they are collectively known, are the principal Dhuwa moiety creation ancestors. The four other paintings depict aspects of their journey through eastern Arnhem Land. During their travels on land they name and make sacred animals, vegetation and places. The Sisters give birth to the people and institute the ritual of the Dhuwa moiety Ngärra ceremonies.

bottom right: Djan'kawu at Burralku. He wears a waistband of feathered string and has cicatrices on his chest. Djan'kawu carries two mawalan (walking sticks) decorated with parakeet feather pendants and bound with string. Where the mawalan is inserted in the ground spring water gushes forth. A brolga is depicted above Djan'kawu on the clay pan ready to fly away.

bottom left: As they approach Yalangbara (Port Bradshaw) they look back and see the Morning Star which has guided them. Later, as they arrive at Yalangbara they look back and see the sun rising.

lower right: A large sea creature, also representing a ngainmara or conical mat, is shown floating in the sea.

lower left: The Djan'kawu see a thunder cloud. The Thunder Man, Djambuwal, is urinating and forming a waterspout between the clouds and the sea.

upper right: Djan'kawu and the two women in their bark canoe. The fish is a garfish seen on their journey.

upper left: top: Shows a male whistling duck, a female and chick.

top right: Djan'kawu depicted with sacred Mawalan (walking sticks).

top left: The Djan'kawu at the rocks at Gulbinbuy are depicted by the diagonal lines. They hear the flying foxes in a sacred Gadmura tree. They hear the black mangrove bird and the morning pigeon in the mangroves. They see a lizard. The oval shapes are trepang (sea cucumber).

The cross-hatching represents aspects of the environment including marks made by the dancing brolga and by it digging for worms in the ground. Other interpretations of the cross-hatching are clouds, sunlight on the sand, rain, the wake from the stern of the canoe, waves breaking, sea foam, different kinds of water and a swimming duck.

© 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
191.8 x 69.8 cm (irreg.)
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Gift of Dr Stuart Scougall 1959
Accession number
© Estate of the artists. Licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd