Wagilag Sisters, 1964 natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark 81.0 x 40.0cm (31 7/8 x 15 3/4in).
PROVENANCE Milingimbi Methodist Mission, Northern Territory (label attached verso) The Collection of Milton and Alma Roxanas, Sydney, acquired in 1988
The descriptive label attached verso reads: 'This painting deals with the Wawalak story which is re-enacted in the Wawalak Ceremony which is one of the most important Ceremonies of the Liyagalawumirri. The Wawalak sisters left the Southern Interior of Anrhem Land to travel to the North East. The elder sister took along her child in a paper bark cradle. They carried with them their yam sticks. As they travelled they touched and named animal and plant life which became the totemic creatures and plants for the Wawalak Ceremony, and members of the Dhuwa Moiety. The youngest sister was pregnant and after travelling many months, she gave birth to a son, just prior to reaching Mirrimina the sacred waterhole and home of Yurlungurr, the great Python of the Liyagalawumirri mythology. The top of the bark shows the stars which they named - also the crescent moon, and then the sun. When they came to the waterhole (Mirrimina) the semi-circle at the bottom of the bark, they decided to make camp for the night. The youngest sister when to the waterhole for drinking water. Her presence enraged Yurlungurr who rose out of the depth and emerged from the pool alongside a paperbark tree and saw where the sisters where camped.
As night began to fall he came out of the waterhole and completely encircled their camp. He then quietly began to sing his 'power' song to call up the rain of the wet season. A cloud which is a circle of cross hatching in the top left hand corner, gathered over the camp. When the rain started, the women began to sing their 'power' songs as they clapped their singing sticks together, bottom centre. But after a lot of singing they realised their efforts where in vain as the rain continued unabated. They knew then they were up against a very powerful spirit and sang all the 'power' songs contained in the singing sticks. In desperation one of the sisters threw the singing stick into the sky in a last effort to stop the rain, but Yurlungurr turned the stick into the first flash of lightning. More rain continued to fall and eventually Yurlungurr swallowed the Wawalak but because he and the sisters belonged to the same moiety, he vomited them out. He swallowed them for the second time. Later he stood up in his waterhole with his head above the clouds to talk to the other great snakes. The Green Parrot Snake realised something was wrong and questioned Yurlungurr closely about what he had eaten. After constant questioning he admitted what he had done. The other snakes grew very angry because he had eaten those of his own moiety. Yurlungurr then fell to the ground in shame. Where he hit the ground he caused a large triangular shape. This is the ceremonial ground for all Wawalak Ceremonies today.'
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