Thanks to Tim Lee and ABC Landline crew for the great job they did helping Warddeken get the story of the crisis in rock art conservation out to the public. And well done Jesse and Catherine who were great on camera. Follow link on my earlier post to watch the whole story online.
Seeing Dendroica’s posting of a crab spider this morning I remembered this picture taken at Kabulwarnamyo on the West Arnhem Land Plateau about 2004.
It’s also a crab spider and I think probably Thomisus spectabilis, with its prey. The prey is a feral bee (Apis mellifera) which the spider has caught by hanging out in ambush mode on the underside of this lamb’s tail flower head (sp?), well camouflaged by its white colour.
Apis mellifera is a foreign invader in Arnhem Land. Feral Apis seem to have spread extensively through Arnhem Land only in the late twentieth century where they compete with the stingless native bees, or “sugarbag” as these are known in Aboriginal english.
At Kabulwarnamyo in Kundednjenghmi language, native honey is called mankung, with various other speciific names that align with Linnaean taxonomic classifications for more than four different stingless bee species.
More on representation of horses in Western Arnhem Land contact rock art.
The horse in the picture at the top, next to Samuel Namundja, was drawn by someone having difficulty sorting horse and kangaroo anatomy. The horse is very kangaroo-like.
In the painting below the artist has a firm grip on horse anatomy, other than issues of scale for head and body. Pipe-smoking riders sharing one horse is not something you would see every day and the intention seems to be humorous and quirky.
It seems reasonable to conclude the painting at the top was drawn by someone who experienced horses only briefly before putting brush to rock while the artist below had spent more time amongst the white people and their beasts.
Both photographs are by David Hancock and are from the Fragile First Impressions exhibition being shown in-house at the conservators conference of the International Council of Museums currently happening in Melbourne.
When European artists first arrived in Australia they struggled to draw the local fauna and flora. Their landscape art had an “englishness” about it and kangaroos and other Australian fauna had an unnatural resemblance to foxes, stoats and the like.
Not surprisingly, Aboriginal artists faced the same problem when they first encountered European beasts.
These paintings from a site in Djok clan country, Western Arnhem Land make the point quite visually.
The artists were well used to drawing kangaroos. The horses they drew were influenced by a mental macropod template for large mammals — big back legs, small front legs and looking like they are bounding rather than running.
We believe these pictures may have been painted in about 1865 when Captain Frances Cadell put a mob of horses ashore on the Liverpool River and went exploring on horseback.
The paintings are part of the Fragile First Impressions Exhibition of photographs of contact rock art from Western Arnhem Land at the International Council of Museums Conference here in Melbourne this week. The photographs were taken by Top End photojournalist David Hancock.
The show is open only to delegates to the conference but we hope to show it later in Canberra, Darwin and maybe Sydney.
Will keep you posted.
Painted sometime between the mid-nineteenth century and early twentieth century this humourous depiction of two pipe-smoking Europeans riding a horse is located high on the rugged Arnhem Plateau at Bodbang Workwork near the Liverpool River in Djorrorlom clan country.
Warddeken Land Management’s rock art conservation program seeks to preserve and restore relationships as well as conserve images.
Lachlan Jumbirri grew up at Manyallaluk near Katherine hearing stories of his country from his father but was not able to visit that country until a trip sponsored by Warddeken in 2004. Lachlan’s family history is like many from the Warddeken diaspora, people who left the country for various reasons but who, through reasons of marriage or of health issues, or indeed of getting sustained access to 20th century western “essentials” were unable to return.
Moving back permanently to country remains too hard for many of their descendants today, but Warddeken assists where it can reconnecting country and people and in particular with keeping new generations in touch with their heritage and management responsibilities.
In March this year Lachlan brought his sons Seth and Oscar to see the art sites at Bodbang Workwork (pictured).
These images and 34 others can be seen in room 101 at the Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centre during ICOM-CC 2014.
You won’t find Yilingkirrkkirr anywhere other than in the rugged sandstone massif of Kakadu and Western Arnhem Land. Yilingkirrkirr is the name for this handsome and elusive bird in the languages of Kundedjnjenghmi and Gundjeihmi. The scientific name is Amytornis woodwardi and the common name is the White Throated Grasswren.
Yiilingkirrkkirr is listed as a vulnerable species by the Northern Territory Government. It’s not travelling as well as its close relative the Black Grasswren from Western Australia but much better than the Carpentarian Grasswren, to the south-east. The Carpentarian Grasswren is listed as endangered with less than 2000 breeding pairs.
The fall of Yilingkirrkkirr to vulnerable status is believed to be associated with a decline in Aboriginal customary fire management practices brought on as Aboriginal people were drawn off their rugged homelands from the late nineteenth to mid twentieth century. Since about 1970 Aboriginal people have been returning to re-establish themselves on the remote Arnhem Land Plateau. They began re-instituting customary burning patterns from the late 1990s and have been very successful in reducing the huge late dry season wildfires that impacted so badly on Yilingkirrkkirr.
The Aboriginal rangers of Warddeken Land Management are delivering the recommendations for conservation of Yilingkirrkkirr: implementing a fire management program that maintains or enhances habitat quality across the range of this species and establishing a monitoring program for at least representative populations.
The return to customary indigenous fire management means longer intervals between fires in critical habitat and smaller, patchier fires which provide habitat with variations from recently burned to long unburned.
Yilingkirrkkirr seems to be surviving the effects of predation by feral cats on the plateau. Feral cats are believed to be a major cause of a catastrophic decline in the population of small native mammals across North Australia. Yilingkirrkkirr nests in the midst of thick and spiky spinifex tussocks and cats probably find it easier to hunt small native mice, lizards and insects.
photo by petercookedarwin
The explorer Ludwig Leichhardt was the first European to see this spectacular grasshopper from the Arnhem Plateau, recording it in his journal of 1845. It became known as Leichhardt’s grasshopper but it didn’t really need a new name as the Kundedjnjenghmi and Gundjeihmi speaking Aboriginal people of West Arnhem Land had been calling it Alyurr for many thousands of years. Alyurr is associated with Namarrkon, the lightning spirit responsible for the intense electrical storms just before the wet season in November. Alyurr is the child of Namarrkon. It hatches from eggs underground early in the dry season and is a resplendently coloured adult by November. Alyurr is a fussy eater and depends on the aromatic and oily plateau plant pityrodia, hatching at the base of the plant and moving upwards through seven stages, or instars. Alyurr has a scientific name — Petasida ephippigera.
If you are interested in the creatures of North Australia and how indigenous people there classify and name them, check out linguist Murray Garde’s online resource
And for lots more information about language in the Deep North and Western Arnhem Land in particular, try the Bininj Gunwok blog: http://bininjgunwok.org.au/blog/