This painting represents the arrival of the Makassars (Now Indonesians) centuries before white settlement in Australia.
The Makassars came to northern Australia to hunt bêche -de - mer (sea slugs) and other sea life.
In exchange, the Makassars would trade knives, axes and other metal for spearheads, cloth, rice and gin.
The Aboriginals would also trade turtle shell, pearls, cypress pine and sometimes their young women.
The Makassars influenced the northern Australian Aboriginals in their art, language, hunting, fishing and their religious beliefs through Islam.
Bottom left of painting represents a hollow log coffin ceremony.
Black crow ( the crow buries the body as he lands on the body), is standing on a corpse wrapped in paper bark like a mummy -atop a platform. The corpse would be left on the platform until there was only one bone left.
The burial party would then prepare a hollow log coffin made from the stringy bark tree which would have come would have been eaten out by termites. The coffin would be decorated and placed in the ground like a fence post or totem pole, with the bones then placed in the hollow log. If any of the bones would not fit, such as a skull, they would be crushed. After the ceremony was complete, it was forbidden for anyone to touch the coffin ever again!
Top left of painting has 2 crows in a tree ( the crow is the story teller) and 2 tribesmen, 1 with a messenger stick. A messenger stick was a way of communication , not much different to us sending us letters. Tribes would use messenger sticks to inform other members and other friendly tribes of ceremonial and other important matters.
The centre of the painting represents the first Makassan arrival with the mother ship centre and a scouting skip.
Top right features members of a friendly tribe.
Bottom centre of painting shows tribesmen hunting, women and children gathering.
Artist: Gary Madjibarreli
Tribe: Wurrkiganydar, homeland Gaarttji, North East Arnhem Land, NT Australia
Ochres,white clay, magnesium, PVA glue as a binder, on canvas.