Heart of Country, 2013,
Jacky Green (centre above), Drill Hall Gallery, ANU
The heart represents the life of the country. It’s the heart of Aboriginal people and the country, together, as one. Through the heart runs a river. Rivers are important places for us Aboriginal people. They always have been. Country needs water. On the left-hand side at the top are four people. These figures represent the mining company and government. They work together to take what they want from us. Below them are the drilling rig, grader and dozer all belonging to the mining company who are comin’ into to our country and damaging it. In the middle of the heart are the four clan groups of the Borroloola region. The Garawa, Gudanji, Mara and Yanyuwa. The line with four people sittin’ down are the singers of the four clan groups. Yanyuwa in red, Mara black and red, Gadanji yellow one and Garawa brown. Above them in the heart are their dancers. It’s though our song and dance that we pass the knowledge and law of the country. Above the heart is what the country used to be like. Beautiful, with everything there for us, lots of bush-tucker and water. But when you got all this machinery comin’ into our country you start to get damage. People and bush-tucker pushed aside having to move somewhere else, sometimes dyin’. You can see the area around the miners is empty no bush-tucker and no Aboriginal people. This no good.

Desecrating the Rainbow Serpent: a painting by
Jacky Green (2014)
At the top of the painting, guarded by the Junggayi (Boss for Country) and Minggirringi (Owner of Country), are the eyes of The Rainbow Serpent. The Junggayi and Minggirringi are worried that The Snake is being desecrated. The Rainbow Serpent is one of our spiritually powerful ancestral beings. It rests under McArthur River in the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria. Under our law we hold responsibility for protecting its resting place from disturbance, and responsibility for nurturing its spirit with ceremony and song—just as our ancestors have done since the beginning. The left of the painting represents a time when we had authority over country. We lived on country, hunted, fished and gathered our food on country. We used fire to care for it, and most importantly, we protected our sacred places within it. By protecting and nurturing our sacred sites we protect and nurture our spirituality and our wellbeing as Gudanji, Garrwa, Mara and Yanayu peoples. The right of the painting represents the present time (2014) when we still have no authority over all of our ancestral country. The artwork illustrates how the resting place of The Rainbow Serpent looks now. It’s been smashed by McArthur River Mine. Country, torn open to make way for one of the largest lead, zinc and silver mines the the world has ever seen. To do this they cut the back of our ancestor—The Rainbow Serpent—by severing McArthur River and diverting it through a 5.5 kilometre diversion cut into our country.
A lot of people have died because of the desecration of our sacred places. Interfering with these powerful places, it pulls people down. The stress of seeing our land suffer means we suffer. Men tried to fight but got pulled down. I might be the next one, or the Junggayi will go down. The mining executive might go too. All this pressure, it’s no good.

Earlier today I posted a news story reporting on the indigenous protest about the cultural and environmental damage from the Xstrata mine at McArthur River.
Jacky Green is an artist and cultural warrior fighting for his people against the might of Xstrata.
This painting and his story below gives some background to this struggle.
……from Jacky Green 2013, Private Collection
Mount Isa Mines Limited was the company that first owned the McArthur River Mining lease from the 1950s to 2003. When they first came to the Gulf they were doing tests and drilling to see if they could make an underground mine. The traditional owners of the place wasn’t happy with it, but they said alright because they are going to do it underneath the ground and not damage the property on top it, so they let it happen. But when Xstrata Mining Company took over the lease in 2003 they didn’t respect the agreement that we had with the mining company.
This painting tells the story of our fight with Xstrata Mining Company and how they expanded McArthur River mine from an underground to an open cut mine making it one of largest lead-zinc-silver mines in the world. The mine is built right on the resting place of The Rainbow Serpent. It’s a
spiritually powerful place, real powerful.
The men standing at the bottom of the painting represent the junggayi (Boss for Country) and the
Minggirringi (Owner of Country). Together, these are the people who have responsibility for protecting country. They are powerless, just staring at what is happening to their country, to the animals and sacred sites. They are afraid the land is being poisoned. They have to stand on the
outside of the mine lease, they can’t walk freely on their own country because the mine has restrictions and we can’t enter unless they say so.
Near the airport you can see a tree. This is the place where the Turtle rests. The Turtle is an ancestral
being and part of The Rainbow Serpent story. The tree is a powerful place and only the junggayi can go there. Women, children and young boys can’t go near the tree because it’s too powerful. If anything like kangaroo, stone, fish, turtle or sugarbag is in the area it can only be touched by the
Junggayi. But now the miners are there, not the junggayi. That’s not right