Kunumeleng is the Kundedjnyenghmi name for the season that white folk call “the build up” — a time of oppressive heat and humidity relieved by isolated storms. The storms often include spectacular displays of lightning. The Top End of the Northern Territory has some areas with amongst the planet’s highest numbers of lightning strikes per year. Indigenous people of the deep north don’t relate to the European temperate regime of four seasons. Kundedjnyenghmi names six seasons: kunumeleng (the build up), kudjewk (the monsoonal wet), bangerreng (last rains and strong winds that knock down tall grasses), yekke (early dry season), wurrkeng (colder weather) and kurrung (hot weather when the ground burns bare feet). Kunumeleng is a time when plants spring back to life and many edible fruits mature. This picture was taken at the road crossing at Manangayhbalhmeng, known in english as “Dreaming Lady Crossing”. The name Dreaming Lady refers to yawkyawk mermaid spirits which live in the billabongs down stream from this open rocky road crossing. The bush is still recovering from Cyclone Monica which has the record for most intense tropical cyclone on record for Australia. It knocked down and stripped trees throughout western Arnhem Land in early 2006. It peaked with winds of 250kph (155mph) and Dreaming Lady was right in its path. I have seen large trees that have been stripped bare of bark by the wind strength. Rocky hills clothed in forest were left as bare rock. Slowly the bush is recovering.
Western Arnhem Land indigenous art often incorporates use of an “X-ray” technique in which internal organs like heart, lungs and liver are shown. Mick Kubarkku (1922—2008), another old master from the Liverpool River in Western Arnhem Land has used X-ray style here but in a very unusual way. The figure is a Yawkyawk, a mermaid-like female water spirit. The water spirits may leave their homes in watery caves beneath banks of rivers and billabong and come out onto dry land at night and so Mick has shown them with arms and legs as well as the usual fish-tail. Their breasts project out under the arms, another West Arnhem Land artistic convention also used when painting mortal women. He has captured the sinuous movement of the Yawkyawks through the water. But running through the figure is a snake-like shape and he has cleverly blended both the head of the Yawkyawk and snake together. Yawkyawk is said to be the daughter of the great female rainbow serpent Yingarna, a being which gave people their social identities and languages in the beginning. He has brought together mother and daughter into one image. This painting travelled Australia as part of an exhibition of works by Kubarkku and Bardayal Nadjamerrek. She is now back closer to home. In the billabong Mick is using a wily fishing technique in a shallow billabong which has many small fish and freshwater prawns. A hollow log, blocked in one end with grass and weighted down with stones is left in the billabong. Fish and prawns go inside for safety from predators, for shade and cooler temperatures. All the hunter has to do is quickly tilt the open end upwards and the fish and prawns are trapped inside.