Earth pigments on Stringybark
72 x 26cm
Wititj ga Dhamiḻiŋu
This is something of a naturalistic reference to Wititj (Olive Python) and Dhamiḻiŋu (Northern Blue-tongue lizard). In physical form, Wititj is manifest as the olive python, found in the monsoon rain forests in North East Arnhem Land. As told by Watjuku Gurruwiwi, the brother of Djul’djul, when olive pythons are mating, Dhamiḻiŋu is said to be present to to protect the snakes from potential predators such as brown snakes. In this sense Dhamiḻiŋu is seen as a protector for the creation rights and processes of the Wititj and therefore through association, with the Gälpu clan.
In a broader sense, this imagery refers to perhaps the oldest continuous human religious iconographical practice, the story of the Rainbow Serpent. Estimates vary from 40,000 to 60,000 years on the depictions of the Rainbow Serpent in West Arnhem rock shelters.
Wititj is the all powerful rainbow serpent (olive python) that traveled through Gälpu clan lands and on further, during the days of early times called Waŋarr. Djaykuŋ the Javanese file-snake is a companion and possibly alternate incarnation of Wititj, living in among the Dhatam, or waterlilies, causing ripples and rainbows (Djari) on the surface of the water (one reference in the cross hatch).
The story of Wititj is of storm and monsoon, in the ancestral past. It has particular reference to the mating of Wititj during the beginning of the wet season when the Djarrwa (square shaped thundercloud) begin forming and the lightning starts striking.
The sun shining against the scales of the snake form a prism of light like a rainbow. The arc which a snake in motion travels through holds to a rainbow shape but causes the oily shimmer to refract the colours of the rainbow. The power of the lightning is made manifest when they strike their tongue. The thunder being the sound they make as they move along the ground. The morning after a major cyclone there are swathes of stringy-bark bent over in snake trails through the bush in just the same way a normal scale snake leaves bent over grass traceable by trained trackers. After Cyclone Monica there was a path cleared through the stringy-bark forest almost from Maningrida to Jabiru.