As well as being regarded as one of the “old masters” of Arnhem Land art, Peter Marralwanga (1917-1987) was a big family man. He was big — well over 6ft and powerfully built — and his family included five wives and thirty five children. In the top photo he’s been gathering Haemodorum (windilk/bloodroot) buds for his wives to boil up to make beautiful dyes for their superbly finished pandanus fibre baskets. In the bottom photo he’s not painting up for ceremony — just painting up with joy at finding a new supply of a brilliant yellow clay (Karlba) to use in his artwork. His paintings are to be found in most state and national galleries in Australia. This painting depicts Ngalyod, the rainbow serpent and protector of land, dealing with people who have transgressed a law of ritual behaviour. Many of his paintings relate to particular places and are accompanied by cautionary tales of how to behave appropriately in sites of spiritual power.

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