Collection Online
earth pigments on Stringybark (Eucalyptus sp.)
154.4 × 87.4 cm
Place/s of Execution
Beswick Station, Northern Territory
Accession Number
Indigenous Art
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from Admission Funds, 1990
© Paddy Wainburranga (Fordham)/Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Vizard Foundation
Gallery location
Not on display
Physical description
Known as Ngalyod or Borlung in languages of western and central Arnhem Land, the Rainbow Serpent is mostly associated with bodies of water such as billabongs, creeks, rivers and waterfalls where she resides. Therefore she is responsible for the production of most waterplants such as waterlillies, water vines, algae and palms, which grow near water. The roar of the waterfalls in the escarpment country is said to be her voice. Large holes in the stony banks of rivers and cliff faces are said to be her tracks. She is held in awe because of her apparent ability to renew her life by shedding her skin and emerging anew. Rembarrnga stories about the rainbow serpent often describe her as a fearful creature that swallows humans only to regurgitate them, transformed by her blood. The white ochre used to create the brilliant white paint for bark paintings, body decoration and in the past, rock art, is said to be the faeces of the rainbow serpent.