Collection Online

Ngak Ngak and the shark's liver tree

synthetic polymer paint on paper
41.0 × 57.7 cm irreg. (image) 51.0 × 67.0 cm irreg. (sheet)
Place/s of Execution
Ngukurr, Northern Territory
Accession Number
Indigenous Art
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by Anthony and Beverly Knight, Fellows, 1996
© Reproduced courtesy of the Estate of Ginger Riley Munduwalawala & Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Vizard Foundation
Gallery location
Not on display
About the work

Ginger Riley comes from the coastal saltwater country of the Marra people. His ‘mother country’ is about 55 kilometres inland from the Gulf of Carpentaria on the Limmen Bight River.

Many of Riley’s paintings represent the shark’s liver tree, which is depicted here. This tree is not a natural tree but a ceremonial construction and part of Riley’s mother’s creation story. Riley also depicts Ngak Ngak, a white-breasted sea eagle that plays the role of a sentinel or guardian, protecting the country. For Riley, representing Ngak Ngak is a way of honouring this protective spirit.

Although Riley’s work remains embedded in the land of his birth, no two paintings of his country or creation story are identical in colour or composition. His paintings say again and again, in the artist’s words, ‘My mother country is in my mind.’