Art and the Dreamtime

Day 10. Tuesday 14 August.

Another overnight sail, and for some reason it seemed a lot quieter than the night before. Arrived in Freshwater Cove (Wijingarra Bard Bard), named (in English) for obvious reasons. The fresh water runs from several springs constantly, even through the dry. There is an aboriginal community there from the Worrorra people, although only a few permanents. The location on the beach had been set up as a premier fishing lodge, with access by float plane, but that venture has been superseded by organized tour groups to the aboriginal rock art, in the Wandjina style (a cultural belief system that includes the Worrorra, Ngarinjin and Wunambul tribes), along with sales of more recent art works, sourced from the main gallery in Derby. Wandjina is their supreme spiritual being who created the land.

We were given a traditional welcome on the beach on arrival, with a daub of red ochre. This was explained as a welcome to us, but also our undertaking to respect the land, the culture and the people.

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The walk in to the cave was about 40 minutes over a mostly even path, although there were some rough patches and the last 50 metres or so were downhill, rocky and with some large steps. The art itself, which had been retouched a few years ago by an elder, was explained to us by a member of the traditional owners. They reflected stories from Dreamtime (called Lalai in this area) legends similar to other regions (and to Genesis, for that matter!). Although we were permitted to take photographs we were not given permission to share them on social media, or use them for commercial purposes.

As we left we were ‘smoked’ to ensure that the spirits were left behind.

A treat after lunch as a Humpback whale and her calf were spotted just ahead of the ship, and stayed on the surface as we slowly passed by, with the calf continuing to feed.

We relocated to Langgi, a fairly short distance, to go ashore to look at limestone ‘sculptures’ in Pentecost limestone that had been created by fissures in the rock being weathered away, and then the remaining rock being eroded by nature, primarily the tide. This area we visited was protected from heavy weathering influences, so had remained erect – similar structures close by had tumbled into heaps of rocks.

The rocks have a Dreamtime story attached. In this (shortened version), two of the largest rocks are a warrior and the wife of another man he ran away with (or, alternatively, he killed the husband to get his wife). They were chased by a group of warriors from the tribe and speared to earth and thus turned into stone: because the naughty warrior was a spiritual being, all the other warriors were turned into stone at the same time. A salutary tale.

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