Watch this video with your students and hear from Noŋgirrŋa Marawili.

Interview with Noŋgirrŋa Marawili

I began working as an artist helping my husband Djutjadjutja Munuŋgurr on his paintings. He was a great artist and I would help him with paint his barks and larrakitj. After a while he taught me how to paint on my own and I began to make my own paintings.

Noŋgirrŋa Marawili painting Baratjala, Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre, Yirrkala, Northern Territory, 2019; photo: Dave Wickens.

I paint water designs. The water. As it crashes onto the rocks at high tide. Sending the spray into the sky. You know what I mean. That’s what I do. And also those things on the rocks that I paint as dots are called dungunanin, the barnacles that dress up the rocks. I just do my own design from the outside. Water. Rock. Rocks that stand strong. And the waves that run and crash upon the rocks. The sea spray. This is the painting I do. You may spy on me and think that I am painting sacred things. This would be a lie.

It is my life.

My husband.

Think and Discuss

  • Locate Yirrkala on a map. Where is it situated within Arnhem Land? Research the climate in Yirrkala. How do the seasons there differ from the seasons where you live?
  • What are some things you notice about your environment when the seasons change?


  • Investigate how artists collect and prepare bark before beginning their work of art.

Science for Secondary Students

Some historical rock paintings created by Aboriginal people thousands of years ago have faded and are possibly not as vivid as they once were. Suggest reasons why they are fragile and what can be done to preserve these historical records from further deterioration. Some of Marawili’s work has been made using a combination of magenta pigment, which includes the molecule Quinacridone, and natural materials. Do you think this would make her work more or less fragile?

  • Research the materials that Marawili has used to create her work. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using synthetic versus natural materials? •Marawili sometimes uses a marwat, a very fine paint brush made from human hair. Examine her paintings. Can you identify where she has used different types of brushes? Find a work of art in the collection and look closely at the marks made. Did the artist apply them quickly? Did the artist use a lot of media? Based on your observations and analysis of the marks made, design a unique tool for your artist.

recycled print toner pigment, Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre, Yirrkala, Northern Territory, 2019; photo: Dave Wickens.