“The land is my mother. Like a human mother, the land gives us protection, enjoyment and provides our needs – economic, social and religious. We have a human relationship with the land: Mother, daughter, son. When the land is taken from us or destroyed, we feel hurt because we belong to the land and we are part of it.” – Djinyini Gondarra
Kakadu, in the Northern Territory is a special part of Australia; a unique environment that feels like an altogether different country
Managed jointly by local peoples and the National Parks,Kakadu is over 20,000 square kilometres , bigger than Tassie and half the size of Switzerland. But its not the size which is an important factor of the land, rather the very nature of the earth and its myriad expressions which are so powerful ; the earth and the creative expressions of the Indigenous peoples who have cared for the place for over 65,000 years.
Ubirr rock is a site of prolific artistic expression going back over 40,000 years.
On this rock, paintings created over the generations tell symbolic stories of the spirits, both good and troublesome as well as depicting moral lessons and sacred law. I was intrigued to learn that it is the act of creation, not the outcome which is highly valued by the local peoples. To me that suggests a spiritual process in which the connection to the divine is of greater value than the artpiece. Thats why you’ll see later stories painted over older ones.
The rocks of Ubirr are also a catalogue of the abundance of food to be found in the area ; barramundi, turtle, rock wallaby,possum and even the thylacine or Tassie tiger!
As our guide explained the rich cultural and spiritual significance of the rock, I felt an urge to reach out and touch it. It was the same urge I had felt when coming face to face with the fading beauty of 13th century frescoes in a church in France. It is a urge to feel connected to ancient times when everything on the earth was sacred. I controlled myself while reflecting on the fact that in Australia we contain the oldest continuing culture in the world-yet we often act as though we are a new country.
After wondering in awe at the art, we were able to climb the nearby rocks for a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside which floods during the wet season.
Shortly after entering the Aboriginal lands of Kakadu, our guide had pointed out a rock, much smaller than Ubirr, which was having its birthday this week. We were encouraged to guess its age but we all failed by billions of years, 2.4 billion in fact. That is the age of the earth here; so flat because the mountains have been ground down to earth.
As we left these lands, I gave thanks to the elders of the local peoples for preserving the land and allowing us to wonder and dream as we made contact with eternity.