In this painting Jacky Green (centre, playing the didgeridoo) reflects on change and continuity in culture, against a background of strangers using country who don’t understand the meanings that lie in the landscape and the special relationship of indigenous people to their country.

The Land is our Life
Jacky Green, 2013, Private Collection
Like many of my paintings I’m looking at the time past and present. This painting is of the region now known as McArthur River Station. Before, when there wasn’t much white people in this country, the Gudanji could still live on their land. The place in the painting is where there is an important waterfall and billabong and where there used to be lots of kangaroos and goanna nearby. It was always good for hunting. It is also a really important ceremony ground. In the painting are Gudanji women singing and dancing. The song they are singing is associated with the waterfall. It’s a women’s song. The singers are sitting on white plastic chairs like so many of us do these days. The crocodile is from a time long ago, when he snuck up on a hunter bloke to eat him, but the hunter saw him and killed him. The kangaroos represent one of the song-lines in the country when the kangaroo was travelling through on his way to Kaiana. The song-line comes in over the escarpment. I’ve made some small arrow marks to represent his journey. The helicopter represents the present time when people fly in to take tourists; the tourist operators are always looking for good place to take tourists. Most of the time they don’t realise that the billabongs and waterfalls and other places are really important to us Aboriginal people and they shouldn’t be there without us to guide and protect them. The story I want people to take from this painting is when they see our country they remember that besides the trees, hills and waterways there are lots of important things that they can’t see. These are powerful things. Things that we know about from our songs and under our law we have to protect and care for them. No whitefellas can do this.

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