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Artist profile: Djawida Nadjongorle
The story behind the painting: The Rainbow Serpents are regarded as the creators who are very powerful and are responsible for the formation of the mountains and rivers. They have the ability to live under the water or burrow underground and they can change their shape at will into a man, animal tree or rock. They can also create life including people, animals and plants and trees. The people do not like to upset the Rainbow Serpents as they can become quite angry and can swallow the offending people or create great floods and hardships. All of the serpents have the power to create lightning, thunder
and torrential rain if any Aborigines offend them, either with the smell of cooking or by making a noise when they are sleeping. They often journey over the desert, teaching law and ceremony to people living at isolated camps.
In the Dreamtime, two Ancestral Beings of the central desert areas, went throughout the Western Desert of Central Australia teaching law and ceremony to Aborigines living at isolated camps. They found many places where the waterholes and creeks had completely dried up, forcing people to leave their camps and wander through the desert trying to find water. Many died of thirst.
The two ancestors sat down one day to consider how they could alleviate the distress caused by long periods of drought. They decided to create a special ceremony called Ngapa Jukurrpa (Water Dreaming), and called on the Lightning Man, boss of the storms, to send lightning strikes into the sky. The first people to see these flashes of light were so terrified that they took up spears and boomerangs to fight them. The ancestors then summoned the great Rainbow Serpent to growl continuously, causing loud thunder to roll across the sky, followed by heavy rain as its forked tongue pierced the storm clouds. Large rainbows formed and crossed the sky during and after the rains.
As rain poured down, the people dropped their weapons and began to sing and dance with glee. Waterholes were filled and creeks ran with fresh water. Grass sprouted underneath the sand and plants flourished. Animals came to drink at the waterholes and provided a further source of food for the starving people. Later, the summer sun dried the stalks of edible plant and the wind lifted up seed pods and distributed them at places throughout the desert, thus ensuring food for the people living there. In rainmaking ceremonies all of these events are re-enacted by the performers in a series of song and dance cycles.
C/No: 1776 75cm x 105cm Ochres on arches paper
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