Kebbalhdjurri (Spoonbill)

The subject of the painting is one of the numerous water birds found in freshwater rivers and billabongs in the artist’s country. They are a major source of food for the Kunwinjku people who live in and around Oenpelli in Arnhem Land. The bird is kebbalhdjurri or spoonbill. The bird feeds in shallow water during both day and night and eats fish, crustations, molluscs and water insects. The water grass shown is part of the habitat in which the bird and its prey lives. The bird has been painted in the classic “x-ray” style with internal organs and backbone shown and the fine rarrk or cross hatching which is one of the hallmarks of Kunwinjku paintings in the rock art tradition.

Every year around Bankerreng and Yekke (the season of the last storms, and the early dry), you can see lots of birds catching fish in the billabongs of Arnhem Land. In the wet season the fish are still young, but as it draws to a close the fish get fat enough to eat and birds flock to feast on them.