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National Museum of Australia

Where our stories come alive

Collection Explorer


Snake story from Karrinyarra, painted by Mick Wallankarri Tjakamarra, 1978


On display

Snake story from Karrinyarra, painted by Mick Wallankarri Tjakamarra, 1978

Object information


The painiting shows snakes at a waterhole. One of the snakes has a prominent bulge in its side. This is a rabbit eaten by the snake. Kimber states this was the first Papunya Tula painting to include a reference to rabbitis.

Physical description

A Papunya Tula style dot painting in earthy tones with a brown background painted on a chipboard panel. A black and white concentric circle is featured in the centre of the painting with three snakes painted below the circle and three snakes painted above it. Two sets of semi circles are to the left and right side of the concentric circle. Down the left side of the painting are four sets of black semi circles with white dots in between them, and down the right side of the painting are five sets of black semi circles that also have white dots between them. Areas of yellow, black and white dots cover the whole painting with black animal tracks.

Statement of significance

Pintupi wooden, bark and stone implements and ochre, 1984; and post-contact Western Desert Aboriginal artworks dealing with the theme of biological invasion.

The main part of this collection consists of ethnographic items that belonged to a group of nine Pintupi people who lived fully traditional lives in the isolated Lake Mackay area of the Western Desert until 1984 - when they made contact with the Kiwikurrer community. At this time they met Europeans for the first time. Apart from these few items of material culture, fire was their principal tool. This poignant collection documents the last known fully traditional Aboriginal group in Australia, and the last case of initial contact between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The collection also includes some post-contact contemporary artworks from the Western Desert that deal with environmental history themes such as Indigenous responses to the invasion of Central Australia by the introduced European Wild Rabbit. This is a little explored secondary aspect of contact history.

Physical description

On display at the National Museum of Australia.

Object information

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