Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Barramundi dreaming

Aboriginal people are respectfully advised that this article contains the name of an Aboriginal person who is now deceased.

The Miriuwung and Gidja people who live in the East Kimberley share a Dreaming story about a barramundi fish. Although they are separate language groups living in adjacent country, they both recognised the sacred and special nature of the area the story describes.

This area now forms part of the Argyle Diamond Mine, the only place in the world where rare pink diamonds are mined, along with cognac, canary and champagne diamonds. And so it is that the country is recognised by our western culture as a special place as well.

This is the story of the Barramundi Dreaming.

A beautiful barramundi made its home in the Tharram river, at Bandicoot Bar. The barramundi travelled up the Dunham River, past where the Worrworrum community is today.

A group of old women chased it, and it swam into a cave near the area now known as Barramundi Gap. As it entered the cave the women prepared to catch it with nets made from dried and rolled spinifex grass. The barramundi realised it was trapped in the shallow water of the cave entrance, and tried to escape by swimming to the other end. But the barramundi could not find a way out, and it returned to the entrance of the cave where the women were waiting with their nets.

The big barramundi swam towards the women and jumped over them, swimming through to Glen Hill where some of its scales scraped off on the rocks as it passed through. You can see the scales of Barramundi Gap near the Glen Hill community’s first gate - they are the white rocks on the top of the ranges, and they gleam bright white when the sun hits them in the late afternoon.

The barramundi jumped through a gap in the rocks, landing in the deep, clean water of Kowinji, or Cattle Creek. As the barramundi died it turned into a white stone, and its fat (a delicacy to the local people) became the pink diamonds, and its organs became the brown and yellow stones, and they sprinkled across the land.

Three of the old women who chased the barramundi to Cattle Creek peered into the water to look for it, and they too turned into stone, forever becoming part of the landscape. Today there are three stone formations overlooking the creek.

This story show how the ancient Dreaming story and our western world view both recognise the special nature of Barramundi Gap.

Painting by Rover THOMAS [JOOLAMA], Kukatja/Wangkajunga peoples, 1926/1928 Australia – 1998, Warmun (Turkey Creek), Kimberleys, WA.Barramundi Dreaming 1989, natural pigments on canvas 90.0 h x 199.7 w cm, Purchased 1990, Accession No: NGA 90.1065, Reproduced courtesy of Warmun Art Centre

1 comment:

Isabella Golightly said...

I love that you're sharing the local culture and I love that artwork - what fantastic imagination.