Namarnde & Bininj

The artist has painted a Namarnde, one of many types of Mimi spirits that inhabit the sandstone escarpment country of western Arnhem Land. Mimis are the original spirit beings. According to the Kunwinjku people of western Arnhem Land, they existed before humans and taught them everything they needed to know – ceremonies, dance, song, hunting and all bush skills. These spirits continue to live in rocks, trees, and caves in the stone country, but are rarely seen by humans. They are frequently seen in rock art around Oenpelli as small dynamic figures. Most Mimis are regarded as being mischievous but not threating to humans, unlike the Namarnde depicted in this painting which is considered slightly ‘cheeky’, or dangerous. 

This a story that has been passed on for generations. In this painting Bininj (aboriginal person) is asking Namarnde to give him some of his powers. Namarnde is painted in bright whites to signify his skeleton-like appearance. The Bininj reaches towards Namarnde. It’s an old story and it’s a true one. There are many stories in Arnhem Land of Markidjbu (Magic men) who have derived their special powers of healing and knowledge from Namarnde. Namarnde don’t like humans to have more power than them so acquiring this knowledge can be dangerous.