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Old Masters: Australia's great bark artists

Caution: This website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


Peter Marralwanga
Peter Marralwanga. Photo: Luke Taylor.

Kardbam clan, Kuninjku language, Yirridjdja moiety
about 1917–1987

Marralwanga’s nickname was Djakku, the Kuninjku word for ‘left-handed’. From 1949 he lived mainly in Oenpelli (Gunbalanya), before moving to Maningrida a decade later. At first he made only spears and fishnets to sell, but by 1972 he had established an outstation at Marrkolidjban which, for a time, he shared with Yirawala, who taught him the skills of painting. Marralwanga developed a personal style characterised by bold bands of rarrk in alternating colours. He also tutored a young John Mawurndjul in bark painting. Major group exhibitions featuring Marralwanga’s work include: Aboriginal Art at the Top, Darwin, in 1982; The Continuing Tradition at the National Gallery of Australia in 1989; Aratjara, which toured Europe in 1993–94; and Crossing Country at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2004.

Paintings in the exhibition

Click on the images below to see a larger version and more information, including dimensions. Please note these images are not to scale.

  • Ngalyod the Rainbow Serpent
    Peter Marralwanga, Ngalyod the Rainbow Serpent
  • Yawkyawk
    Peter Marralwanga,Yawkyawk

All these bark paintings are part of the National Museum of Australia’s collection. © the artist or the artist’s estate, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency 2013, unless otherwise specified. These images must not be reproduced in any form without permission.


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