Lot 24
  • 24

Galwu Working early 1960s

7,000 - 10,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Galwu
  • Morning Star Corroboree
  • Bears artist's name, region (Elcho Island), and a description of the story, together with a certificate of authenticity from Dorothy Bennett on labels on reverse.
  • Natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark
  • 100cm by 48cm


Painted on Elcho Island circa 1963

Collected by Dorothy Bennett, most likely between 1962 and 1964

Tom and Adi Barnett, Vermont, USA

The Barnett Collection at Columbia University

Sotheby’s, Important Aboriginal Art, Melbourne, 30 June, 1997, lot 109 (AU612)

Fiona Brockhoff, Melbourne

Catalogue Note

The documentation on reverse reads: “In the time of myths (Bamun) Yaolngura was sitting down in his own country of Melville Island when a leaf from a yam plant came drifting to him. He decided to follow the leaf, and told his many wives to load up his bark canoe with lily bulbs for food and shells for water. He took with him a spear thrower, cylindrical in shape, with a human hair fringing the end of it. It had first been made by Mokoys (evil ghosts) and he knew he would be travelling to the island of ghosts. It was many days and nights before he came to the island (thought to be Elcho Island) and here he was befriended by the ghosts because he carried with him the spear thrower. He was given three ghost wives. He asked to see how the morning star was made.

Now Barnumbir, the morning star, is jealously guarded by an old woman ghost who lets it out on a long string each morning like a kite then pulls it back when the sun comes up, she hides it in a basket and sleeps on it so that no one can take it from her. At first she would not let Yaolngura see it but he told her he wanted it for his own island which had no morning star, then he sang a song with magic in it, and she showed him the star. Part of it was seagull feathers, and part jungle yam. She promised to send it over to Melville Island each morning, and let it out on a fibre string, at first giving it only enough rope to fly to the nearby pandanas tree so that it could first see the ocean, then gradually playing out the rope so that it flew all over the nearby land.

When Yaolngura returned to his own island his wives were overjoyed, having thought he was dead. But he was so weak from paddling so long that his back broke and he died. His wives did not know why his back broke but actually it was done by the three ghost wives who wanted him back with them.

In the Dua mourning ceremony the spear thrower with human hair and white feathers is carried as a symbol of the morning star. A totem of paperbark and string is also carried, with white feathers at the top representing the morning star. The pole (spear thrower) is placed in the ground and some of the dancers take the feathers attached to a long piece of string and dance around the pole.”

A related painting entitled Dance of the Mugui Spirits of the Murrungun Clan is the collection of the National Museum of Australia, as part of their Dorothy Bennett Collection.