Dawidi is best known for his bark paintings of the dreamtime story of the Wagilag Sisters. The aim of this article is to assist readers in identifying if their aboriginal bark painting is by Dawidi by comparing examples of his work. He painted in a Central Arnhem land bark painting style.
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Dawidi was born in 1921 into a Liyagalawumirr family on the Central Arnhem Land coast. He lived on Milingimbi Island but travelled throughout Central Arnhem Land because he was the custodian and principle elder of the Wagilag Sister ceremonies. The Walilag Sister ceremonies are a major ceremonial cycle in Central Arnhem Land and Dawidi became the principle elder after being taught its secrets by his Uncle Yilkari Kitani in the late 50’s.
His most desirable bark paintings are of the Wagilag Sister legend. He consistently uses all four colours (black yellow red and white) but does so with subtle contrasts. His painting covers the entire bark (typical of central Arnhem Land) but often has borders top and bottom. His paintings do not have borders on all four sides as is common in Eastern Arnhem Land work.
The story of the Wagilag Sisters, tells of the day the two Wagilag Sisters ventured into the sacred place of Julunggul (Yulungul), the Rainbow Serpent. Angered by the desicration of the water hole the rainbow serpent rose from his sleep in the lagoon, sucked in the waters, spewed forth a fierce thunderstorm. he then devoured the Sisters and their two babies. The story records the arrival of the first monsoon season and the flooding of the earth. More importantly, it documents the foundation of the laws of social and ceremonial behaviour, and provides a means for the continued transmission of cultural knowledge.
He has recently been exhibited at the Old Masters exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia.
Bark Paintings by Dawidi
The following images are not a complete list of works by Dawidi but give a good feel for the variety and style of this artist.
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