Having been a tour guide for many years across the top end, including Kakadu and Arnhem Land I have been lucky to explore many art sites accessible to ‘Balanda’ (local language for white person). The most notable rock art galleries in Kakadu are undoubtedly Ubirr and Nourlangie. Both are exceptional and provide good interpretational signage and occasional are host to ranger talks and sessions in the dry season months. Ubirr is situated on a high rocky outcrop overlooking the floodplains, and as you follow the trail encountering many different art styles whilst gaining height, everyone is rewarded by vast distant panoramic views across to Arnhem Land. Definitely a must-do whilst in Kakadu.
Ubirr is where you will find some of the most interesting styles, and also a few particular paintings with noticeably less detail than most galleries you will stumble upon. I’m referring to the ‘Mimi Spirits’. Basic in style due to the living conditions approximately 5,000 years ago. There wasn’t any time to develop detailed, explanatory imagery, day to day was spent hunting and providing. The Mimis also painted in unexplainable places, which remain a mystery today. Nourlangie is also one not to be missed and hidden amongst a rocky landscape, is home to some amazing artwork, one of my favourites being the ‘corroboree’ image. A happy image, full of movement, yet having been painted thousands of years ago, remains motionless. It’s the kind of gallery, at each and every visit you notice something new, that’s what I love about it. Another iconic painting at this site, is ‘Namarrgon’, or most commonly referred to by the name of Lightening Man. He is a key spirit which brings on the wet season rains each year and is a great example to show how rock art depicts a story or law for the younger generations to learn from their elders, by linking the story with distinctive geological features in the landscape.
In more recent years I started leading Arnhem Land tours across the East Alligator River, and after hearing so much from the few that do get the chance to explore over Cahills Crossing, I was excited to see it for myself. I was pretty much speechless on my first visit, silently tracing the steps of a local guide from Gunbalanya up Injalak Hill, the way he passed on information was more intriguing, and you could sense his emotional attachment to the country. The creational mother ‘Yingarna’ can be seen here, a very important ancestor for the local people. She created the aboriginal people and crossed through the area leaving spirit children and language where ever she went. The stories we learn as non-indigenous are the lowest level of knowledge that an aboriginal child will start with. When an individual understands and respects that, they then proceed to learn how the stories develop. Many people lack this information, and as visitors we learn the initial level of interpretation thus explaining the ‘child-like’ narrative . I am eternally grateful we can have this insight alone into the oldest living and existing culture in the world.
All around Kakadu, any rock overhangs and areas protected from the elements you will likely find evidence of life, in the form of art. Thousands of years of stories, knowledge and law have been preserved this way, penetrating the sandstone and being a permanent reminder of human existence. It is a place full of wonder and amazement. I cannot recommend highly enough a Kakadu tour or Arnhem Land adventure with an accredited guide. Traditional owners have allowed us to access these special areas, and we will be forever thankful to them for that.
To join me Holly or one of our other great guides please get in touch with Venture North Safaris on 08 89275500 or email us here.