Yawkyawk (Water Spirit)
Yawkyawk (Water Spirit)


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

Bu Yawkyawk ngarriyime nakka nawu daluhdaluk nawu birriyawyak nawu minj birriyawmayinj dja mak ngarriyime yawkyawk djang kahdjangdi kore kubolkwarlahken kunred.yiman kore Koyek ngad darnkih dja bewh djarreh kore nawern yawkyawk djang.Nahni yawkyawk kayolyolme nawu kunburrk bininj dja kundad nakka yiman djenj kunberd.Yawkyawk karredjdjingmang yiman karlkke bu kabirridabbolkmen wanjh kunberd djenj kayimerran kundad bokenh wanjh kabirrini kore kukku kukadjid Yika kabirrire manberrk manme kabirriyawan kabirrimang.Dja bu Kudjewk wanjh djalangkarridjdjalangkarridj kabirriyimerran kandibengdayhke kabirrimulewan mandjew bu ngurdmeng wanjh djenj namarnkol dja nawern mak djenj ngarrimang..

Size 41 x 61 cm | Medium Paper | Catalogue # 1549-22 | Year 2022

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Artist  Shaun Namarnyilk

Shaun Namarnyilk is the son of Rita Nadjongorle and Bundy Namarnyilk. Shaun is an experienced artist, tour guide, musician and storyteller. His aesthetic continues to develop, drawing on the ancient rock art stories and styles of Injalak Hill and other rock art sites around Western Arnhem Land. Shaun has also worked as a ranger. While caring for country as a ranger Shaun has had access to many remote and inaccessible rock art sites that few people have had the privilege of visiting in thousands of years. Shaun is inspired by the ancient knowledge and aesthetics of his ancestors to create remarkable contemporary paintings that span subjects from traditional knowledge and sacred spirit beings to current affairs like the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the community of Gunbalanya, as well as the diverse challenges and benefits that living in a remote community presents. Shaun mixes coloured pigments and ochres to create backgrounds which reflect the surface of the rock itself. He is developing the West Arnhem ‘x-ray style’ technique, leaving his canvas out in the rain and continues to build layers, giving his artworks the appearance of the ancient rock art.

One of his grandfather’s is Djawida Nadjongorle, and other one is Spider Namirrikki, along with Jimmy Namarnyilk.

Shaun has previously worked as a ranger, caring for the Stone Country of West Arnhem Land.


further details

Size 41 x 61 cm
Medium  Paper
Catalogue # 1549-22
Year 2022