Maningrida Arts Centre
Maningrida Arts and Cultural Centre
Anniebell Marrngamarrnga - Kuninjku
Dorothy Bunibuni – Kuninjku
Paul Nabulumo Namarinjmak - Kuninjku
Ken Ngindjalakku Djungkidj - Kuninjku
VIDEO DURATION | 9:21 minutes
From the curator
The spirit ecologies of Kubumi waterhole are expansive and ebb and flow with the waters of Maningrida. The water landscapes surrounding Maningrida consist of freshwater creeks and flood plains and the bountiful saltwater ocean of the Arafura coast and in these waters are Ancestor spirits and animals that live together. Kuninjku fibre artists and sisters Anniebell Marrngamarrnga and Dorothy Bunibuni have woven large scale artworks from handpicked fibres that feature Ngalkunburriyaymi Yawkyawk (Freshwater Mermaid) and Kumuken (Freshwater Crocodile) and Nawarlah (Brown River stingray) that swim above us.
Below in three dimensional form are elongated Mimih spirit figures that hide between the rocks on land and Yawkyawk that sometimes walk on land by artist Ken Ngindjalakku Djungkidj. Further to the immersive waterscape is the painting of Kubumi by Paul Nabulumo Namarinjmak which embeds the eternal energy of this country into the installation. Through the collective ‘s work of Kubumi we can connect to the land, animal and spirit ecologies that hold deep layers of history and time and continue to flow to this day in Maningrida country.
Djang is an ongoing, eternal, life-giving transformative power that accounts for every aspect of existence. It also refers to the creation Ancestor, the country where spirit resides, and to ceremonial designs and songs that represent that being. It is what powers our art.
Kamarrang Paul Nabulumo shares:
“This place Kubumi is really big. We’ve got biggest mob Djang here, too many dreaming at this place”
The spirit Yawkyawk are usually described and depicted with the tails of fish. Thus, the Kununjku people sometimes call them ngalberddjenj which means 'the woman who has a tail like a fish'. They have long hair associated with trailing blooms of green algae (called man-bak in Kuninjku) found in freshwater streams and rock pools. At times they leave their aquatic homes to walk about on dry land, particularly at night.
Ngalyod (Rainbow Serpent) pierced the rock at a place called Bolerrhlerrh and journeyed downstream from there to Ngalmalanj. The camping place Kubumi is downstream from there at Ngalmalanj where the serpent was blocked. It pushed down into the riverbed, pushed into the earth, sinking down forever. Now it lives under the rocky riverbed. That site continues downstream. During the dry season at Kubumi, the Mann River shrinks to a series of deep waterholes, exposing the tunnels through the rocky outcrop that interconnects the pools. It is alongside the water holes that the Yawkyawk called Ngalkunburriyaymi lives.
“Kumuken (Freshwater crocodiles) also live at Kubumi. They are shy like the Yawkyawk. They live together. Yawkyawk is a quiet one. She has lived in that place for a long time. She’s the only Yawkyawk at Kubumi. We also know her as Ngalkunburriyaymi. We went Kubumi Billabong where she lives. We camp and go fishing and hunting for freshwater turtles, stringray, and barramundi."
Courtesy of Maningrida Arts and Culture
Aboriginal people in the rocky environments of western and south-western Arnhem Land tell of the existence of tall slender spirits which they call Mimih. The name Mimih is well known throughout the top end of the Northern Territory. Aboriginal groups living in the rocky environments of western and southern Arnhem Land share mythology which relates to the beings known as Mimih.
The people of western Arnhem Land believe that Mimih spirits live in a social organisation similar to Aboriginal people and that Mimih society existed before humans. Mimih are credited with instructing the first people with knowledge relating to survival in the rocky environment of the Arnhem Land plateau. Mimih are said to have taught the first humans how to hunt and butcher game and also how to dance, sing and paint. The song and dance style of western Arnhem Land Aboriginal people is still known today as Mimih style. This term is also used by Aboriginal people further to the east in Central Arnhem Land when describing the dance and song of their western neighbours.
Despite the usual descriptions of Mimih as being benign towards humans, sometimes however they are attributed with mischievous and dangerous qualities, capable of kidnapping and even killing humans. ‘Clever’ men, or Aboriginal men with supernatural powers, sometimes befriend the Mimih and are taught their songs and dances and shown their secret places. The Mimih are like people using the same kinship terms and speaking the same language as the local Aboriginal group. They live in families like humans and it is said that some of these Aboriginal men with mystical knowledge have spent time living with them in their camps.
Mimih are however, terribly thin, having necks so slender that a stiff breeze would be fatal. For this reason, they emerge only on windless days and nights to hunt. As soon as a breeze develops, the Mimih are said to run back to their rocky caverns and disappear inside.
An immersive installation of 25 large-scale fibre weavings that are hung above in a swimming motion, they include crocodiles, Yawkyawk mermaids and stingray. On the floor on low plinths are 17 wood sculptures that are approximately 2 metres tall and stand vertically about half a metre a part. They are painted black with cross hatching design in white, red and orange ochre. There is a film on a wall with sounds of fire crackling and water moving that evokes the lush aqua ecologies of country and features footage of pandanus fibre being smoked and then flowing in the water, looking like the hair of the mermaid. On the floor is an enlarged vinyl of Kubumi waterhole designs which is a black circular water hole and similar cross hatching designs in white, red, black and orange.
Kubumi (2023) Maningrida Arts & Culture (NT)
Anniebell Marrngamarrnga - Kuninjku Dorothy Bunibuni – Kuninjku Paul Nabulumo Namarinjmak - Kuninjku Ken Ngindjalakku Djungkidj - Kuninjku
Director and Video Artist | Naina Sen
Artistic and Cultural Collaborator | Freda Ali Wayartja Kuninjku
Drone Operator | Jack Bullen
Sound Design | Kelvin Gedye, System Sound