Grandmothers Country – Seven Sisters Dreaming

Michelle Possum Nungurrayi

Artwork Year



160 x 130 cm


acrylic on canvas


In this painting, Michelle Possum Nungurrayi combines the two stories, Grandmother’s Country and Seven Sisters Dreaming, to give a sense that the stories sit above our heads and other stories sit underneath our feet.

It’s an interesting tension between looking upwards into the heavens and looking downwards at the land spreading out before us.

The palette remains principally those warm intense colours that we associate with the art of Clifford Possum. Michelle creates impressive paintings with a wonderful glow to them and a sense of drama and activity. You’ll see multiple centers of interest happening all over the canvas.

The artist used the iconography that indicated how people used the land. It was a rich resource for food and medicinal plants. Then in a spiritual context they have laid out the symbols to sit across the Country, giving the meaning and context of that part of the land in the painting.

The famous Seven Sisters story is widely told by Aboriginal communities right across Australia. This star group sits very low on the horizon and rises just after dark every evening.

The Pleiades story is about a group of sisters taking off from the land and heading off into the sky. They are being pursued by an older man who’s seeking a wife among one of the sisters, but he is the wrong skin group. It’s a constant drama that’s played out every night in the Australian night sky.

In this instance captured in the night sky over the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory of Australia, which was home to seven Ancestral Sisters and an old Tjakamarra tribal man who followed the sisters to the Milky Way during the Creation Time. Shown as seven concentric circles clustered together, the Seven Sisters once lived a tribal life in the desert, which included gathering native bush-food and engaging in women’s ceremonies. Here, life was good for the women until they found themselves being constantly harassed by a `dizzy` old tribal man, who wanted to marry all, or one, of the sisters, none of whom was interested in the old man’s intentions. Besides, he was of the wrong Skin group.

Represented as a lone concentric circle, the old man was relentless in his pursuit of the women, who finally decided to flee to the Milky Way and there they became seven stars, which we call the Pleiades in the constellation of Taurus. The old man, however, would not give up and so he followed the Sisters to their new abode and became the Morning Star. His efforts to catch the women, however, have remained futile, for the Seven Sisters retain their freedom to this present day, but with the old man still following their trail, as shown in this work.

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