Collection Online
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
135.5 × 544.0 cm
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 in memory of the artist and her father, the late Tom Stephens by Beverly Knight, Fellow, 1997
© Reproduced courtesy of the Estate of the Artist & 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
This painting contains seven interconnected stories about the artist's country, Mambali. The stories relate to men's and women's songs and dances for circumcision ceremonies and the struggle for survival in the early days. The first story is about good medicine. Men and women are singing and dancing to promote good medicine and to teach young boys the law. There are songs and dances for the little snake, bird, crustacean, turtle, butterfly and yam. The second story tells of an army comprised of five different clan groups which has been gathered together to protect Mambali country from an invading group. The body decoration worn by the enemy is shown in the third section which concerns the winds that bring good medicine and the paperbark tree, also associated with washing and healing. The moon man, a totem of the artist, is shown at the top preparing for ceremony. The fourth section also depicts the moon man and Alawa totems of mustard fish, stingray, green bird and white snake, the last named being depicted in the fifth section. It concerns a battle for survival in the early days between Alawa people and another warring group. According to the artist, the circumcision ceremony was not conducted properly, resulting in ritual 'pay back' according to Alawa law. The sixth story also concerns the constant fight for survival, for bush tucker, territory and women in the early days which no longer happens. The last section concerns special healing medicine and songs shared by different clans.