X is for Art

a-to-z-letters-xX is for X-RAY PAINTINGS

X-ray paintings are typical of the Aboriginal paintings which can be seen in the Wet Season caves and rock overhangs where the communities lived during the floods and heavy rains.  The paintings span centuries and are frequently painted, layer over layer, by succeeding generations of artists.

Some of the themes can be narrowed to particular time eg images of guns will only occur after the mid-19th century. Paintings of sailing ships may be more ambiguous as it’s known that the Macassan traders worked the northern coast of the Northern Territory. What’s interesting to me, is that these drawings aren’t by people who lived right beside the ocean, rather a little inland.

Our tour guide, Peter aka Mongrel, points out some of the less noticeble art work at Ubirr.

Our tour guide, Peter aka Mongrel, points out some of the less noticeble art work at Ubirr. You can see a sailing ship to the left of where he’s pointing and further left, Mabuyu. P Cass 1991

Mabuyu

Mabuyu

Only specific people within the community who had the traditional responsibility could “touch up” the important paintings, which I believe was last done nearly 50 years ago. It’s interesting to me to look at photos taken back in 1991 when I first visited, with some taken last month. Paintings were a form of history keeping as well as telling cultural traditions and animals to hunt.

Long necked turtles are still hunted in the billabongs in Kakadu.

Long necked turtles are still hunted in the billabongs in Kakadu.

I’m not going to try to explain the intricacies of the X Ray Paintings as I’m no expert. There’s an article here by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The style of painting is still reflected in some art work by Arnhem Land artists.

A hunting scene shows men with spears. The Aboriginal people were, and still are, excellent hunters in their tradiitonal land.

A hunting scene shows men with spears. The Aboriginal people were, and still are, excellent hunters in their tradiitonal land. You can see people, fish and a turtle.

My photographs are taken at two sites, both in Kakadu National Park. One is Ubirr and the other is Nourlangie (or Burrunggui). There are a couple of galleries in each place, and it’s well worth visiting each. Do take time to sit down and have a breather and a sip of water. The longer you look, the more pictures you’ll see. At Nourlangie’s Anbangbang gallery, the iconic image of Namarrgon, the Lightning Man is the most popular feature.

Anbangbang gallery hosts these amazing paintings including the LIghtning Man with the arc between his arms.

Anbangbang gallery hosts these amazing paintings including the LIghtning Man with the arc between his arms.

Archeologists have dated Nourlangie’s Anbangbang gallery as having been in use for over 20,000 years. So much for Australia being a young country!

The person on the left is without a doubt, a white man.

The person on the left is without a doubt, a white man.

Nourlangie art low

The image on the left has a Wandjina vibe to me but I could very well be wrong.

Why visit: to see ancient art tell a story of life before white settlement, and stories of traditional culture and hunting.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

The closer we get to the end of the alphabet, the fewer options for Aussie-isms, perhaps we really are lazy after all!

Today I leave you with a beer closely associated with my  home state of Queensland:

XXXX: Fourex beer is manufactured on Milton Rd in Brisbane, close to the famous Lang Park Rugby League grounds. XXXX is a Qld icon!

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Q is for El Questro and Queensland

a-to-z-letters-qOnce again today’s trip takes us across the NT-WA border into the magnificent Kimberley area.

Q is for El QUESTRO

El Questro Wilderness Park lies in the north-east of the Kimberley’s 421,000 square kilometres of natural wonderland. The property is perhaps more well-known for its high-end luxury accommodation in the homestead, but that shouldn’t deter those of us with less well-lined pockets as there are other options for staying here.

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When we visited back in 2001 we chose to stay in the secluded camping spots alongside the PentecostRiver, which have no facilities, rather than the busier camp site nearer to the Station. It was blissful to be just relaxing in the midst of the bush listening to the birds, rather than other campers. It’s not as if you’re miles from anywhere as it’s a short drive, or longer walk, to the shop near the campground. Why didn’t we take a photo of our campsite I’d like to know?!

Chamberlain gorge1

Apart from the two camping areas, the more upmarket bungalows, and the lodge, there are also the safari-style tents at Emma Gorge, closer to the entry to the property. Even if you’re not staying there you can go into the restaurant/bar area and have a “coldie” either before or after your walk into the gorge.

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Although you may be tempted to do a lot of chilling-out (not always easy in the 30+C heat!), there are plenty of activities you can organise through the Station. We chose to do the Chamberlain Gorge boat cruise and absolutely loved it. The scenery is magnificent, once again with the landmark red cliffs and fresh water. Of course the colour of the rocks changes with the time of day and when the sun is angled on it.

Look closely and you will see the "Bradshaw" paintings of people, a hand print and a kangaroo. All on the cliff face protected by overhangs.

Look closely and you will see the “Bradshaw” paintings of people, a hand print and a kangaroo. All on the cliff face protected by overhangs.

The guide will also show you some of the ancient Aboriginal art that’s tucked away among the cliffs, overhangs and mini-caves. It is such a privilege to see this art that dates back thousands of years, perhaps as much as 20,000 years.

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The Wandjina paintings are just beautiful I think and a nice souvenir is to buy a pair of stirling silver earrings in those shapes from a jewellers in Kununura.

If you want to know more about the facilities and touring options you can check out their e-brochure, and sadly I’m not getting any kick-backs on this promo. But I am reminded that it’s far too long since we visited ourselves, though it will be tents once again for us.

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The other really important thing you need to know is there is no access during the northern Wet Season (about December-March or April), so you need to keep this in mind. Similarly what sort of vehicle you’re driving will determine how early in the open season you can drive in, as the river may still be impassable in a sedan (especially a hire car!!).

The boab is a feature of the Kimberley landscape

The boab is a feature of the Kimberley landscape

And if you want to know what it’s like staying at the homestead you can check out this post by the couple we met recently in Papua New Guinea.

Emma Gorge

Emma Gorge

Q is for QUEENSLAND

Okay I’m not going to talk about Queensland here except to say the northern half of the state sits in the same latitudes as the other places we’ve been talking about. Some of the scenery may be similar but east of the Great Dividing Range you hit the Wet Tropics. More on that anon. How could I not mention my home state under Q?

Why visitFor yet more magnificent outback scenery, to see ancient Aboriginal art and just to have fun.

FYI: Don’t forget to check out where these places are on the maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

 Queer as a fish: feeling sick ie crook

Quid: a pound in the old money pre–decimal currency on 14 February 1966 (a jingle that those of us who were around then remember vividly).

Quids: as above but a measure of value: you wouldn’t be dead for quids.

Quack: the doctor. Not a reflection on his medical qualifications or skills. My dad always referred to his GP as “the quack”.

Queasy: sick, especially nauseous.

Where shall we travel for R, I wonder?