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Painting of the Milky Way
Title : Painting of the Milky Way Painting of the Milky Way View More Images

(A description from Mountford's journal)

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Creator : Unknown
Source : PRG 1218/35/1504
Date of creation : 1948
Additional Creator : Mountford, Charles P., photographer
Format : Photograph
Dimensions : 25 x 35 mm
Contributor : State Library of South Australia
Catalogue record
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Copyright :

The Library received cultural clearance from the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre, Yirrkala to display this image. Reproduction rights are owned by State Library of South Australia.
This image may be printed or saved for personal research or study. Use for any other purpose requires permission from the State Library of South Australia and Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre, Yirrkala. To request approval, complete the Permission to publish form.

Description :

Colour photograph of a painting created for C. P. Mountford in Yirrkala during the 1948 American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land, artist unknown. The painting depicts the Milky Way.

In creation times the Milky Way (Milinwia) was a watercourse. This painting depicts the story of two brothers who went fishing there, in their bark canoe. During the journey a heavy storm blew up, the canoe broke in half and they were thrown into the water. They struggled to stay afloat, and eventually perished in the water, their bodies washing up on the shore.

Now, this band of stars, known as the Milky Way, represents the watercourse peppered with the remains of the brothers and their canoe, as well as the wake left by the canoe's initial journey.

According to Mountford the Yolngu people of the area had a knowledge of the night sky "far greater than that of most white men." Mountford concluded that the movement of stars through the night sky was used as a workable calendar to predict when certain things would happen. For example, in earlier times, "the showing of Scorpio in the morning sky was a sign that the Malay fishermen would soon arrive to collect Trepang".

Journal entry is from PRG 1218/17/20, p. 231

Related names :

Mountford, Charles P. (Charles Pearcy), 1890-1976
American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land, (1948)

Coverage year : 1948
Region : Northern Territory
Further reading :

American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land, (1948). Records of the American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land, Melbourne : Melbourne University Press, 1956-1964

Berndt, Ronald M. and Phillips, E. S. (eds). The Australian Aboriginal heritage : an introduction through the arts, 2nd ed, Sydney : Australian Society for Education through the Arts in association with Ure Smith, 1978

Elkin, A. P., Berndt, Catherine and Ronald. Art in Arnhem Land, Melbourne : Cheshire, 1950

Hutcherson, Gillian. Djalkiri w nga = The land is my foundation : 50 years of Aboriginal art from Yirrkala, Northeast Arnhem Land, Nedlands, W.A. : The University of W.A. Berndt Museum of Anthropology, c1995

Lamshed, Max. 'Monty' : the biography of C.P. Mountford, Adelaide : Rigby, 1972

McKenzie, Maisie. Mission to Arnhem Land, Adelaide : Rigby, 1976

Morphy, Howard. Ancestral connections : art and an aboriginal system of knowledge, Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1991

National Geographic Magazine, vol. 96, no. 6, 1949, pp. 745-782, 'Exploring Stone-age Arnhem Land' by Charles P. Mountford.

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