Kinga (Saltwater Crocodile) and Yawkyawk (Freshwater Mermaid)

Roland has painted a billabong scene with a Yawkyawk and Kinga.

Kinga, the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is a highly respected and feared animal, associated with many Dreaming sites in Arnhem Land. In the past it was also hunted for food. Kinga can travel in salt water or fresh water, and often travel long distances between river systems. Kinga make their nests in the long grass or forest areas close to rivers, billabongs and water holes. These are piles of mud and vegetation where they lay their eggs. They are very aggressive around their nests. Kinga are often depicted alongside their prey such as namarnkol (barramundi).

Yawkyawk is the Kunwinjku term used for young women but also for female water spirits that have fish tails as shown in this work. Sometimes they are described as ‘mermaids’ who live in trees and water in special places in West Arnhem Land. Yawkyawk start out in a tadpole-like form, as they get older they grow fish tails and spend most of their time in the water but are able to sit on the banks of billabongs. When fully grown they are able to change their tails into legs and walk on land to forage for food. They also change into dragonflies at the end of the wet season, which signifies to the bininj (aboriginal people) the rains have finished. Yawkyawk are said to have namarnkol (barramundi) as pets and that Ngalyod the Rainbow Serpent serves as their protector. These spirits are guardians of sacred waterholes.