There is a project in Norwegian upper secondary schools called “Art of the Week” (ukens kunstverk). Each week a painting is displayed on a large screen in the participating schools. One of the paintings shown is by an Aboriginal artist, Alec Mingelmanganu. Below is a little more information about what is shown in the painting and a few tasks for pupils to do. These tasks could be used for the last twenty minutes of a class, or could be homework for the following class:
(Wandjina spirit, painted by Alec Mingelmanganu, 1980)
Wandjina is a powerful Rain Maker spirit associated with the north-west region of the Kimberley in Western Australia. The significance of the Wandjina story was shared by a number of language groups across the west and coastal areas of the Kimberley, including Ngarinyin, Worrorra, and Wunambal people. The Wandjina images are painted in significant ritual sites for Aboriginal people of the region. Wandjina images are painted on the rock galleries and in caves throughout the region, marked in red and white ochre. Some attempts to date the rock paintings of Wandjina in the Kimberley suggest that they may date back 4,000 years.
Wandjina is the most significant Creation Spirit, associated with rain and therefore the seasonal regeneration of the land and all natural resources. The body of Wandjina is often shown covered with dots that represent the rainfall. The cyclonic Wet Season brings rain to the Kimberley, and elements of the torrential rains, lightning and thunder are often included in the imagery around the head of the Wandjina. Ceremonial dances that pay homage to the Wandjina Rain Spirit can include headdresses that symbolically refer to lightning and thunder.
For people of Mowanjum community, near the town of Derby in the Kimberley, the Wandjina brought the law, the culture and the language of their people. Their Dreaming stories tell of the first Wandjina, called Idjair, who lives in the Milky Way and is the father of all Wandjinas. The Wandjina Wallungunder was Idjair’s first son and he created the Earth and all life upon it. After that he created the first human beings, the Gyorn Gyorn people.
(Adapted from: https://japingkaaboriginalart.com/articles/wandjina/)
(Wandjina paintings on cave wall, Kimberly region, Australia)
Work in groups of four. Divide up the points below and find out more about each of them. Report back to your group:
- Where are the Wandjina paintings found? Place the areas they are found in on a map and find out what the landscape is like there. What other Wandjina paintings are there? Wandjina paintings are still being made, why is that?
- Find out more about the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley region. Where do they live and what can you find out about their culture?
- Another important creation spirit in a different part of Australia is the Rainbow Serpent. What is the Rainbow Serpent, which areas do the stories about it come from? What are some of these stories?
- What other creation stories do you know from other cultures? How was the world created according to Norse mythology?
Some sources to use:
For more information on related topics, have a look at these articles and tasks on Dreamtime stories and on Songlines.