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Spirit Islands

Spirit Islands

Object type
Bark paintings

Object number

Painting on a rectangle of bark, in cross-hatched yellow and white tones. Two squarish sections both contain an irregular shape. The shape in one section is flanked by three smaller squarish shapes, and the one in the other has two circular leaf-like shapes adjacent to it. There are several lateral parallel lines between the sections and across one end of the bark. "699/3[?]" is written on the back in black.

Collection name
John Calaby collection

Collection statement of significance
The Calaby Collection comprises three bark painitings collected by Dr John Calaby while working in Darwin in the 1960s. 'Hollow trees for possums and other animals' is attributed to Mick Magani (c1920-1984, active 1960-1984) from the community of Ramingining at Maningrida in the Northern territory. The two Groote Eylandt cremonial barks: 'Spriti Islands' and Ceremony of circumcision' (late 1950s) were given to Dr Calaby by Dr Fred Rose who acquired them from Fred Gray, the founder of the umbakumba Aboriginal settlement located on Little Lagoon, Port Langdon on the north-eastern coast of Groote Eylandt.

The two important ceremonial barks are visual maps as well as ancestral storylines and can be used to tell several stories about the Groote Eylandt Indigenous people including the story of Fred Gray, the Flying boat base and the Groote Eylandt's involvement in the war effort. Mick Magani is considered to be one of the most significant elders and artists from the Naningrida region.


Place of execution
Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory, Australia

Date of work
1940 - 1955

Associated person
Dr John Calaby

Associated place
Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory, Australia

Date acquired
1960 - 1969

Bark, Ochre

Length: 715mm
Width: 300mm
Height: 40mm

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