Lot 12
  • 12

Artist Unknown Working 1948

5,000 - 7,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Bangudja, The Tiger Shark
  • Natural earth and pigments on eucalyptus bark (eucalyptus tetradonta)
  • 45cm by 92cm
Natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark


Executed on Groote Eylandt during The American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land in 1948
Private Collection, San Francisco
The Thomas Vroom Collection, The Netherlands 


Charles P. Mountford, Records of The American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land, Vol. 1, Art Myth and Symbolism, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1956, Pp.82-83, illus. p.83, pl.27, fig. D

Catalogue Note

This rare painting was collected during the American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land in 1948. According to anthropologist Charles P. Mountford, ‘The shark, bangudja, (Galeocerdo cuvier), then an unmarried man, left Woodah Island and travelled to Bada-bada (Chasm Island), where he made his camp. One day he saw two dolphins swimming in the sea, and, after a long chase, succeed in catching and killing the male. The female who escaped by entering the ground, later met and joined a group of her own kind living in those waters.

On a high cliff on the south-western corner of Chasm Island is a large red stain which bares a remarkable resemblance to the outlines of a shark. This is the totemic body of bangudja. There is a hole on the upper face of a near by cliff, with natural curving lines leading to it where, according to the myth, the female dolphin entered the ground to escape from her enemy, the shark. Her totemic body is now a low rock awash at low tide, just off the eastern end of Chasm Island. The shark, bangudja and his wife…left Chasm Island and made a camp about two miles south of Umbakumba, which camp, when they left, became a small lake. From there they travelled to the sea, their track becoming the Arua Creek. Not far from the mouth of the Arua Creek are two casuarina trees, marking the camp of the shark and his wife. The pair then travelled across Little Lagoon and, on the northern side, created a small sandy island, Moraraka, where again casuarina trees indicate their camping place. The shark ancestors continued on their way northward, but the Groote Eylandt aborigines had no further knowledge of their journeyings’. (ibid p.82)

Mountford comments further that ‘the body patterns which show the bands around the tiger shark, are good examples of the fine brush work of Groote Eylandters’.