Ngak Ngak and the Four Arches, 1990
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
171 x 144.5cm
Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne (AK 284 January 1990)
Artist’s Retrospective Exhibition: Mother in Mind: The Art of Ginger Riley Munduwalawala, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, VIC, 17 July – 22 September 1997
Judith Ryan, Mother in Mind: The Art of Ginger Riley Munduwalawala, Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1997, p.61 (colour illus.).
Cf. For a related example see, The Four Archers, 1994 in the Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan.
Ngak Ngak and the Four Archers, 1990 is a masterwork from this period. It bears all of Riley’s vibrant icons of country that make up a quintessential Marra Country painting: Ngak Ngak, the ancestral trees, ancestors, the creator snakes and the Four Archers depicted here as three archers – Depending on the vantage point, you can sometimes see two, three or four.
The Four Archers, are some 55 kilometres inland from the from the mouth of the Limmen River. For Riley, the landforms were the central point of the world, “where all things start and finish” and therefore, were continually the focal point of many of his landscapes. The rock formation was created by Garimala, described by Riley as “Taipan that can strike you dead in a minute.” Although Garimala is referred to as a single being, it is commonly depicted as two snakes.
Another of Riley’s distinctive icons, Ngak Ngak the totemic white-breasted sea eagle, is shown atop one of the Four Archers. Ngak Ngak is the caretaker and protective spirit who looks after country. Sometimes he is depicted with his eyes closed suggesting that he may be asleep or not looking at anything that tribal lore dictates that he should not. Here, Ngak Ngak is wide awake indicating that ceremony has already taken place. 
Riley has also depicted two of the sacred shark’s liver trees guarded by creator snakes on the left of the painting and ancestors on the right. The trees are man-made totems. According to Riley they bear the name because the shark offered his liver to make these sacred totems.
During 1989-1991, Riley introduced the V-shaped designs into his paintings, sometimes as a framing device and at other times he allowed them to engulf the whole painting. According to Beverly Knight, the Executor of the Estate of Ginger Riley Munduwalawala, “These triangles are directly related to his body paint in ceremony. The V-shapes were painted on his shoulders and stripes across his forehead. He used to tell me this all the time.”
 Judith Ryan, Mother in Mind: The Art of Ginger Riley Munduwalawala, Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1997, cover image, p.29
 Ibid., p.30.
 Beverly Knight, Biography of Ginger Riley Munduwalawala, 2018
 Judith Ryan, Mother in Mind: The Art of Ginger Riley Munduwalawala, Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1997, p.31
 Correspondence with Beverly Knight in 2018.