Art that continues the tradition of rock art and tells the stories of the spirits, ancestors and creatures who shaped the stone country.
Ngalkunburriyaymi - Mermaids
The upper Liverpool River is a central feature of the Mok clan’s traditional estate of Ankung Djang (Bush Honey Dreaming).
From a young age children are warned of the dangers of being at the water’s edge. “Mermaids” - Ngalkunburriyaymi (also commonly called Yawk Yawk) - inhabiting the Ankung estate waters are unpredictable spirits beings; they can seduce you then pull you down into the water’s depths to drown. They start out in similar form to dragon fly nymphs, develop fish tails and eventually can change their tails for legs to forge for food.
Nabarlek (Rock Wallaby)
“Nabarlek, it’s a badbong (short-eared rock wallaby), which is a small kangaroo, that lives in the escarpment. They eat manbadbirri (Rock country tree with an edible yellow fruit), which is another fruit and they also eat mandjabujabu, which is what I have painted. Manbadbirri is a fruit, that grows on the escarpment. We get this fruit in March, Bankarreng, the same for Mandjabujabu, when the spear grass goes flat from the ‘knock em down rains’. Both of these fruits bininj (aboriginal people) and nabarlek eat.
They (Nabarlek), eat this off the ground, on the escarpment. Nabarlek, is duwah, from duwah area, they have got that dreaming (Narbalek) there. The place called Nabarlek, that’s their dreaming. I’m Yirridjdja, which means I’m allowed to paint this djang (dreaming). We use in ceremony, I dance with that story (Nabarlek), but that’s men’s business, secret one. Black Wallaby and Rock Wallaby are duwah too, so especially Yirridjdja people, they paint these stories.”
The artwork that I’ve painted is from my country, Benebenamdi, just near my mother’s country, Korlorbirrahda. This story is mine and my families dreaming. The story that I painted is of a mother, father and their children, all one family. They’re living at that place, on my country, Benebenamdi. Lots of freshwater mermaids on my country, big mob. Every night they come up from the water and look around our country.
Gabriel has depicted female Mimih spirits in this dynamic design. According to the Kunwinjku people of western Arnhem Land, Mimih spirits were the original spirit beings, who taught Aboriginal people many of the skills they needed to survive in the bush. They also taught aspects of ceremony. Mimih spirits are believed to inhabit the rocky escarpments around Gunbalanya but because they are extremely timid, they are rarely seen by humans. They are frequently depicted in the rock art of Arnhem Land as small, dynamic figures, often shown with a range of hunting tools such as spears, spear throwers, dilly bags and fire sticks.
Words by Aysha Alderson "The design that I have made is very close to my heart, Ngurrungurrudjba (Yellow Waters), is home for me and my family, the Murumburr Clan. We are the custodians for the Cooinda region in Kakadu National Park.
Ngurrungurrudjba is not only a tourist destination but is also a lifeline to us, we go out fishing and hunting which provides us with food all year around."
You can view Yellow Waters on a map here.