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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Jilloorlban Spring, Mabel Downs, 2018

by Shirley Purdie

“This (dotted circle in bottom right) is my grandmother, another one – not my own one.
This is my aunty. This (circle in the top right) is where my grandmother, when she bin eat that snake, she bin sick. That snake was my father, and it made my grandmother sick, and they bin tell her, ‘you gonna have ‘em baby’.”

This story is about different sites that Shirley’s relatives occupy or relate stories to. Old Bayallal’s mother (her aunty’s mum) is buried in a cave located on a hill in Mabel Downs. Not far from Bayallal’s mother is another old aunty – Shirley’s father’s cousinsister (In Gija custom, two sisters may be called a mother to each other’s offspring). The top site features Jilloorlban Spring, leading to Mabel Downs River. It is the site where Shirley’s grandmother discovered she was pregnant. She had been feeling very ill, and was vomiting after eating a snake. Later on, the elder women told her she was going to have a baby. That snake she had eaten symbolised Shirley’s father’s conception.

Related information

Marilyn Ball, Albatross, 2018 (detail) by Linde Ivimey
Marilyn Ball, Albatross, 2018 (detail) by Linde Ivimey
Marilyn Ball, Albatross, 2018 (detail) by Linde Ivimey
Marilyn Ball, Albatross, 2018 (detail) by Linde Ivimey

So Fine

Contemporary women artists make Australian history

Previous exhibition, 2018

This exhibition features new works from ten women artists reinterpreting and reimagining elements of Australian history, enriching the contemporary narrative around Australia’s history and biography, reflecting the tradition of storytelling in our country.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.