Ubirr Rock Art
We awoke somewhat unrefreshed after a restless nights sleep. We did, however, beat the Rangers to the gate at 8:20 for the first talk on the Aboriginal Rock Art at Ubirr. There is a 1-kilometre circuit track that allows you to look at different Aboriginal artworks. The paintings could not be dated exactly but ranged from as far back as 20,000 years ago to as recently as the 1920s. The Rock Art came from various tribes seeking shelter amongst the caves and is painted in different styles.
The main gallery was the first stopping point along the way. By far the largest of all the other rocks- this main gallery showed painted walls resplendent with favourite foods of Aboriginal people. Turtles, barramundi, wallabies and goannas covered the walls of these tribes home. It made one reflect upon just how essential the natural environment was for Aborigines to gather all their resources. All art depicts this incredible personal intimacy that the Aboriginal people had with their land.
The Aboriginal spiritual heritage also reigns as of paramount importance within traditional Aboriginal life, and this art and Dreamtime stories that accompany them reflect that. High on the ceiling of the main gallery were some beautiful wispy paintings. They are said to have been painted by the Mimi spirits. These spirits lived in the rocks and came out at night. If they wanted to paint high on the ceiling they would simply pull the rock down, paint their pictures, then place the rock back up.
We wandered up a stony trail to a breathtaking view across the floodplains below. The mysterious majestic sandstone escarpments of Arnhem Land that dot the park are magical. As we stood at the top, a wild dingo ran across the flood plain and then a wallaby. The rock art at the top of the lookout depicted the story of the Mangarra sisters who turned into crocodiles.
The pictures were shown, over the ages, to children to teach them the need to respect this lurking reptile. They are painted in the famous x-ray style of Aboriginal art. The other main style of art at Ubirr was Contact art. This art portrays the arrival of White man (Bandala man) Funnily enough white man is without fail always portrayed with his hands on his hips, pipe in his mouth, and wearing big baggy pants. The Aborigines painted Bandala man with baggy pants, because to them, wearing clothes over one’s legs would have seemed quite odd!
With the sun rising high into the wide northern sky we headed back to the car and started the drive into Arnhem Land, and on to the Cobourg Peninsula.