Lot 14
  • 14

Nadjombolmi ('Charlie Barramundi') circa 1890 - 1967

7,000 - 10,000 GBP
8,750 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Nadjombolmi ('Charlie Barramundi')
  • Namorrordo
  • Bears Bennett Collection number 9, together with extensive documentation label on reverse
  • Natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark
  • 45cm by 20cm


Painted in Western Arnhem Land circa 1958

Acquired by Dorothy Bennett at Mt Brockman, approximately 50 miles from Oenpelli, Northern Territory

The Dorothy Bennett Collection

Private Collection, Sydney, acquired from Dorothy Bennett in 1981

Sotheby's, Aboriginal Art, Melbourne, 9 July, 2001, lot 11 (AU648)

Fiona Brockhoff, Melbourne

Catalogue Note

Cf. Lance Bennett, Oosutoraria mikai bijutsu Art of the Dreamtime: The Dorothy Bennett Collection of Australian Aboriginal Art of the Dreamtime, Japan, 1969, p.24, illus, fig.8, for two closely related figures on bark by Nadjombolmi, collected by Lance Bennett; see also Haskovec, I. and Sullivan, H. 1989. “Nadjombolmi: Reflections and Rejections of an Aboriginal Artist.” In Animals Into Art edited by H. Morphy, Unwin Hyman, London, pp.57-74, for extensive discussions of the artist’s life and rock art practise.
This bark is from an important collection of Aboriginal art and artefacts assembled by Dorothy Bennett on her field trips to Arnhem Land, Croker Island, Bathurst and Melville Islands, and Wadeye (Port Keats). These items were part of her personal collection, which was stored for many years under her sister’s house at Avalon, on the coast north of Sydney. In 1981 Bennett sold the collection to a Sydney engineer, who had worked on housing projects in indigenous communities, and had become fascinated with the culture. His intention was to eventually exhibit the collection. However the collection was never to be exhibited, with the majority of it remaining in storage until all were sold at auction at Sotheby’s in 2001.

In an extensive article about the life and art of Nadjombolmi, he is identified as having created, “at least 604 individual paintings (on rock) at no less than 46 sites… it is clear that he was the major individual contributor to rock art during the past 100 years. Although Nadjombolmi’s paintings are spread over an area of 1,800 km2, the area is well within the documented traditional seasonal range of an individual living within the region. ” (ibid., p.70)

The label on the reverse reads: “Namorodos (sic) live in the rocky escarpments around Oenpelli with the Mimis and Nakidjidj (sic) spirits. They are all credited with being the first inhabitants of the area, and to have taught Aboriginals everything they know about hunting skills and ceremony. It is at night that the spirits leave their rocky homes and come out to hunt and fish, make love, sing and dance, then as dawn breaks they go back inside the rocks and pull shut the door they have blown in the rocks the previous evening. Namorodos (sic) are much feared. They have long hair which swishes in the wind as they play around at night, and long arms to which are attached very lengthy finger nails. These are detachable and can be flicked off at will to go straight into the body of a victim who is annoying them. It is mainly because of Namarodos (sic) that Aboriginals keep well away from the escarpments at night...”