Kulabbarl (Billabong)

Roland has painted a billabong scene with Ngalyod, the Rainbow Serpent, and a Yawkyawk (freshwater mermaid). Kulabbarl is what we Bininj (Aboriginal people) call a billabong, where the flow of a river is blocked and builds up in the rain. Lots of fish are concentrated there, especially when the water starts to recede in the dry season. In small billabongs, we catch things like burd (freshwater bream), marrngunj (small eel-tailed catfish) wakih (freshwater shrimp), kedjebe (file snakes) and ngalmangiyi (long-necked turtle). And in big billabongs, we go and get fish like namarnkol (barramundi), kuluybirr (saratoga) and manmakkawarri (catfish). Sometimes we see kinga (saltwater crocodiles). There are manimunak (magpie geese), djilikuybi (whistling ducks) and lots of other birds which we eat at billabongs.

Yawkyawk is the Kunwinjku term used for young women but also for female water spirits that have fish tails as shown in this painting. Sometimes they are described as ‘mermaids’ and live in trees and water in special places in western Arnhem Land. The spirits are guardians of a sacred waterhole. Ngalyod (the Rainbow Serpent) is a very important ancestor spirit in western Arnhem Land and appears in various manifestations in Kunwinjku mythology. She is generally feared as she may swallow Aboriginals who break traditional laws. Ngalyod dwells also in various billabongs (lagoons) in Arnhem Land.

Manbu kulabbarl ngarriyime bu kudjewk mandjewk nawern kadjakdung wanjh kabore kore mankabo. Wanjh bu kabongurdme kabodadjme wanjh kamarnbun manlabbarl. Kumekke djenj kadjaldi kore kulabbarl. Kulabbarl karri djenj yiman burd marrngunj wakih kedjebe ngalmangiyi kore kulabbarlyahwurd. Dja kore kulabbarlkimuk ngarrire ngarrimang namarnkol kuluybirr manmakkawarri yika ngarrinan kinga kayo kore kulabbarl. Dja kani manimunak djilikuybi dja nawern nawu mayhmayh kani kore kulabbarl.