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Spider Namirrki Early Oenpelli Artist

Spider Namirrki was an early Oenpelli Bark painting artist. The aim of this article is to assist readers in identifying if their aboriginal bark painting is by Spider Namirrki. It compares examples of his work.

If you have a Spider Namirrki bark painting to sell please contact me. If you want to know what your bark painting is worth to me please feel free to send me a Jpeg because I would love to see it.

Spider also painted rock shelters along with other early Oenpelli artists like Nym Djimungurr Nadjombolmi and Mandidja.


Spider Namirrki painted bark painting in an archaic style full of power and spirituality. He deserves to be recognized as an important early artist. Many of his barks have irregular edges and an early collection date. He died just as barks were being commercially collected which accounts for why so few of his works are around. His older barks deal with figures from the spirit world called Mimih. Mimih are a playful but potentially dangerous spirits of the stone country. The fluidity of his Mimih figures are like bark paintings from Crocker Island.

He tended to paint on a brown-red background with figures in white detailed in red and yellow. His work exhibits a freedom and flow that I find highly desirable in a great bark painting. His early paintings show genitals and a freedom of pre-mission work. They relate to the myth of the tempted one.

Spider’s later works are more commercial and are predominantly of animals. His animal barks include Kangaroos, crocodiles, snakes, birds, barramundi, and rays. These barks are squarer and have stick supports.

Spider’s barks have been wrongly attributed to crocker island artists including Namatbara. Mijau mijau and even Nangunyari.


Spider Namirrki was born around 1924 and died in 1973. He was a painter of rock shelters as well as barks.

Skin: Nawamud / Gojok.

Clan: Bulardja.

Languages: Kunwinjku, Kune, Dalabon, Gunjeihmi, Kundedjnjenghmi.

Djang/ dreaming: Namarrkon (lightning man).

Kunred / Country: Yiminy

Traditional roles and responsibilities: sorcerer, healer, head hunter, and artist. Ceremonial leader of Gunapipi, Mardyin, and Djabulurrwah ceremonies.

Mission based occupations: meatworker, buffalo hunter, baker and public servant.

Spider had five wives. His wife Daisy Guymala had three children Betty, Bundy, and Olive. His second wife Molly Nabarlambarl had one child Leanne. The third wife Wendy Djogiba had one child Mary. Spiders fourth wife Dukalwanga Namundja had one child Ivan Namirrki. His last wife Ruth Djandjomerr had three children Neville, Robert and Ivan Namarnyilk.

Special Thanks to Bindi Isis (Artist, activist, naturalist, teacher, mother). She provided biographical information about this fascinating Man.

Mimih Women Dreaming

This painting depicts a traditional story of the meeting of Mimih women by a hunter called Djala.
Djala and his heavily pregnant wife lived near the rocky escarpment known to be the home of the Mimih. The Mimih were a tall but very slender form of spirit people who lived hidden in caves and had dangerous magic.
Djala went hunting and was tracking a large kangaroo and near sunset, he discovered a Mimih had killed the kangaroo he was tracking. Having seen the Mimih kill the kangaroo with his spear Djala complimented the Mimih on his skill. The Mimih called Kaman invited Djala back to his camp to share in the kangaroo meat. Djala was hesitant because he knew the legend that if a Mimih came in possession of your hair or sperm they could work magic on him.
The Mimih blew upon a rockface and it split in two leaving a passage to the Mimih secret glade. In the grassy glade Kangaroos grazed unfrightened and at the far end of the glade was a cave. In front of the cave other Mimih were singing and dancing. The Mimih women were larger and fuller with large firm breasts. Kaman the Mimih introduced the human visitor and instructed his wives to cook.
Realizing if he ate the magical food he would never leave the camp and see his wife again Djala tried to leave. He asked politely if he could take a section of the kangaroo and walk back to his camp. Kaman put him off and insisted he stay the night. With Mimih women singing he fell to sleep into a deep sleep in the cave. He awoke feeling the fingers of Kaman’s wives stroking him all over. He faked sleep knowing that if they knew he was awake he would be seduced and become one of them.
In the early morning by the light of the stars Djala crept out of the Mimih cave and glade and returned home to his wife.

All images in this article are for educational purposes only.

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Western Arnhem land Artists and Artworks

Spider Namirrki Bark painting Images

The following images are not a complete list of the artist’s works but give some idea of his style and variety.

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