Aboriginal art in Kakadu and Arnhem Land in Northern Territory

Aboriginal art in Kakadu and Arnhem Land in Northern Territory
For McMahon, being back means Kakadu and Arnhem Land, and ultimately our final destination in the Cobourg Peninsula.In the north, one of the first things you need to adjust is your attitude to fire. The indigenous people have long worked with it.The rangers perform controlled burns. The animals have adapted and know how to escape the flames.The smoke trail leads us down the old Jim Jim Rd, our first stretch of dirt track since leaving Darwin.Our destination is the Venture North campsite at Garig Gunak Barlu National Park.After lunch, we stop at the indigenous rock paintings of Nourlangie, a site complemented the following day by Injalak Hill, an abrupt buttress of immense rock.
Underneath impossibly large overhangs, the light dims and fires red again, the ochre paint deepening in the shadows.My first steps into these ancient shelters meet a very long-held desire to see Aboriginal artworks in their home landscapes.They also remind me of how little I know about this part of the country and its custodians.The fineness and complexity of the paintings reflects very complex social structures.At Nourlangie, McMahon begins our introduction to both, and reveals his deep curiosity about the area and its people.He started out as a chef. And so, as with his commentary about the bush, he finds food items wherever he looks.One picture is a barramundi, just what he’s cooking for us tonight.At Injalak Hill, the introduction is continued by Azariah Kelly. He tells me that he lived away for a long time, but eventually felt his country calling him back.There is a young family in my group, the Crawfords from Cootamundra, and their three girls have taken a liking to paintings of Mimi, very tall, thin figures that represent mischievous spirit beings.When the three Crawford girls wonder how some of the highest paintings were done, McMahon guesses that a high tree might once have leant against the rocks. A surer answer, we conclude, is that the Mimi did them. Only they would have been tall enough.

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