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Narritjin Maymuru

Possum Tree Dreaming - c.1960s

natural earth pigments on Eucalyptus bark
101.0 x 43.0 cm
EST. $6,000 - $8,000

MP #401


Purchased in 1974 from Aboriginal Arts Australia, Perth WA
Aboriginal and Pacific Art, Vic
Private Collection, Vic

Artwork 101 x 43.5 cm irregular : Frame 117 x 60 cm

Narritjin was a great ceremonial leader in North East Arnhem Land and the keeper of the important possum tree story.


Guwark, the sacred bird of the Dreamtime, lives at the top of a sacred tree situated on the high cliffs above Blue Mud Bay. Only the very old initiated men can look upon this sacred tree, and then only at dawn, when the grey mists swirl about the tree and give an elusive glimpse of its branches. In this work the tree is represented by the pointed object depicted down the centre.

High on the top of the tree sits Guwark, waiting for cicadas and possums to scamper up the tree with messages from the people living on earth. Then he flies off across the ocean to the island of the spirits, Baralku, and tells their problems to the spirit heroes. After consultation amongst themselves, they appoint Barama, one of the chief spirits, to relay the answer to the big black bird, which then flies back across the ocean. As he approaches the tree he screeches out 'guwark guwark' and the possums and cicadas scamper up the tree to hear his message and take it down to the people anxiously waiting below.

Once Guwark was a man who went out fishing with a companion in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Huge seas overturned their canoe, and Guwark gave the only paddle to his companion, who drifted onto shore with it. Guwark was drowned and went up into the Milky Way, but each day he flies down to the sacred tree to wait for his messages, returning to the heavens each night.