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Dog Teeth Head Band Huon GulfNew Guinea April River Shield

Artist: Wanambi
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Artist: Wanambi

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Artist: Dundiwuy Wanambi (1936-1996)

Location: Yirrkala, North East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory

Collected: 1977

Title: Wuyal; The wild honey ancestral being

Size: 20cm x 33cm


Dundiwuy  was a Marrakula clan leader, sculptor and artist becoming one of the most well  known artists of North East Arnhem  Land in the 80s.  He was also one of the Yirrikala artists  who painted the famous  1968 bark petition, which featured the major ancestral spirit Woijal . This historic Australian document was the second traditional bark petition prepared by Indigenous Australians that was recognised by the Australian Parliament, Dundiwuy  Wanambi was one of the main participants  in the Yirrkala Film Project (22 films made with the Yolngu between 1970-1985) with Ian Dunlop  that documented the Yolungu’s  perspective, insight  and impact of bauxite mining.

The Painting

Woijol   ( later spelling Wuyal )  lived in the mythical Dreamtime and was the Wild Honey Ancestral being, in the same country as the Wagilag sisters.  Sometimes he is said to be the father of the elder sister's child or their companion (R. M. Berndt 1951). The Woijal myth is closely interwoven with the Wagilag myth cycle.

Woijal set out from Ngalagan country in south-central Arnhem Land, travelling northwards, carrying stone-headed spears, a spear thrower and stone axe. When he saw bees flying around their hive in a stringybark tree he cut it down with his axe and extracted the honeycomb, filling the long baskets which he carried over his shoulders with "sugarbag". As the trees fell to the ground they created various rivers. Woijal is responsible for establishing a number of totemic sites and sacred emblems. His adventures and travels are described in a sequence of songs. The Woijal mythology is closely linked with Grugalwoi (Gurakawi) at Trial Bay, a most important sacred site of the Maragulu linguistic group.

This bark shows the Mangrove tree at Gurkawuly where the hive of the honey bee was found and also the Rock kangaroo and the frilled neck lizard who are part of the myth.   On this day it had been raining heavily and the  frilled lizard “ Meialwa who was Woijol’s  friend, climbed up a tree to escape the waters and to look around.

Meialwa was originally a very greedy man and one day he was hungrily eating honey from a beehive and without noticing swallowed a wooden splinter which stuck in his throat and so he was changed into the frilled lizard.

The straight black lines on  this bark represent paperbark trees.

( extract Groger-Wurm, H,. 1973, Australian Aboriginal Bark Paintings and their Mythological Interpretations, AIAS, Canberra-)

Collections   include:

  • Art Gallery of Western Australia
  • National Gallery of Australia
  • National Museum of Australia
  • National Gallery of Australia
  • Parliament House Canberra


Last Updated: Sunday, 18 February 2018 18:12