In the culture of the Worora, Ngarinyin, and Wunumbul tribes, which make up the Mowanjum community outside Derby the Wandjina is the supreme spirit being.
The tribes came together early this century at the Kunmunya Presbyterian mission and the government settlement at Munja.
As with most complex cultures, opinions about creation can differ. According to David Mowaljarlai (dec), a highly respected Mowanjum elder, the Worora, Ngarinyin and Wunumbul people are the three Wandjina tribes. Only these three tribes see the Wandjinas as the true creators of the land. Many other Australian Aboriginal tribes believe that the Dreamtime snake or Rainbow Serpent was the main creative force.
The "big boss" Wandjina, came from the Milky Way to create the earth and all the people. These first people were the Gyorn Gyorn - what some gudiya (white) people call Bradshaw figures, named after the gudiya to first see them in 1891. The Gyorn Gyorn had no laws or kinship and wandered around lost.
Wallungunder saw that he could do good with these people, so he went back to the Milky Way and brought many other Wandjinas with the power of the Dreamtime snake to help him bring laws and kinship to the Gyorn Gyorn people. The Dreamtime snake represents Mother Earth and is called ungud. Each of the artists has his or her own ungud birthplace or dreaming place.
The Wandjinas created the animals and the baby spirits that reside in the rock pools or sacred ungud places throughout the Kimberley, and continue to control everything that happens on the land and in the sky and sea.
The Wandjina image by saying 'their power is so great that they don't need to speak, so they have no mouth. Their eyes are powerful and black, like the eye of a cyclone. The lines around a Wandjina's head can mean lots of things - clouds, rain, lightning.
Derby, Western Australia 2011
© Ingetje Tadros