We all love a good story told over a beer at the pub, beside the office water cooler or even on Facebook.
In Aboriginal culture, many stories are told through rock art and while travelling through Kakadu National Park we witnessed the beginnings of some stories that are thousands of years old.
These stories are those of the ‘Creation Ancestors’ who journeyed across the country creating landforms, plants, animals and people and also taught the Bininj/Mungguy how to live and look after the country.
At the end of their lives these spiritual ancestors painted themselves on the walls and became ‘dreaming places’.
Some of these paintings are considered sacred and dangerous and can only be seen by older men or women; others can be seen by all people, such as the artwork on display to the public at Ubirr.
Sharing stories of the land
“Our land has a big story. Come hear our stories, see our land. A little bit might stay in your hearts. If you want more, you can come back.” Jacob Nayinggul of the Manilankarr Clan
Jacob’s words inspire me to continue telling my own stories as I explore Australia. This country has truly embedded its beauty and mystique into my heart and compels we to keep writing as I learn from it.
But today it’s not my story that I want to tell.
I want to share the art from Ubirr so that you too can appreciate the culture of the people living on this land long before us and our ancestors.
Some of these paintings are more than 20,000 years old, bringing home the fact that Australia has a much deeper history than we readily realise.
Art – An important part of life
Art is an important part of traditional Aboriginal life. Aboriginal people paint to record events, to illustrate stories and for fun and enjoyment. This painting features Barramundi, an important source of bush tukka hunted in the ‘Top End’.
The Rainbow Serpent
The Rainbow Serpent is a powerful ancestor who is part of the life cycle of plants and animals and also the seasonal changes. It is believed that the Rainbow Serpent is still present today, resting, and should never be disturbed. As such, the Rainbow Serpent serves as a reminder to Bininj/Mungguy custodians and the next generations about their obligations to care for country.
Nabulwinjbulwinj (featured top and centre) is a dangerous spirit who eats females after striking them with a yam. Namarrgon, AKA the Lightening Man (top right) and his wife, Barrinj (middle left) are also represented in this painting.
Dance to the rhythm of life
Titled ‘Like to Dance’, this artwork expresses the importance of movement and dance to celebrate significant occasions, connect with the land and simply to enjoy life.
Teaching valuable lessons
It is said that these paintings serve as prompts to communicate valuable lessons that are still passed down from generation to generation.
Taking it all in…
No matter what your beliefs are about the creation of this land there is no denying its captivating beauty and the importance of respecting the land.