Two of the great artists of Western Arnhem Land, Lofty Bardayal Nadjamerrek AO (left) and Mick Kubarkku. My recollection is that I took this photograph at the Manmoyi airstrip around 1980. Lofty’s painting is of the euro Kalkberd (Macropus robustus) and Mick’s the saltwater crocodile Kinga (Crocodilus porosis). Kalkberd is a beast of the rocky ridges and hills and the males have very powerful arms and shoulders. Mick’s crocodile is shown either in an underwater cave or amongst fallen trees in the water — hard to tell. These men were prolific artists, for decades often producing one of two such paintings every two weeks. Both were beautiful and humble men. As well as his role as artist and ceremonial leader Bardayal went on to found Warddeken Land Management Limited, an indigenous NGO that now looks after the natural and cultural wonders of the Western Arnhem Plateau. The paintings are on flattened sheets of bark from the stringybark tree (Eucalyptus tetrodonta) and the pigments used are natural ochres from the bush which the bininj of western Arnhem Land have used for perhaps 50,000 years to paint on caves and bark shelters.

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