The artist has painted a Yawk Yawk (female water spirit) guarding a sacred water hole. Yawk Yawk are sometimes described as ‘mermaids’ who live in trees and water in special places in western Arnhem Land. The waterhole is filled with mandem (water lilies) and the tree growing from it is Manbelk (pandanus).
Yawk Yawk start out in a tadpole-like form and grow fish tails as they mature. They spend most of their time in the water but are able to sit on the banks of billabongs. When fully grown they are able tochange their tails into legs and walk on land to forage for food. It is believed that Yawk Yawk transform into dragonflies at the end of the wet season, which signifies to the binninj (aboriginal people) the rains have finished.
Kunwinjku art is part of the oldest continuous art tradition in the world. Ancestors of today’s artists have been painting the rock walls of West Arnhem Land for tens of thousands of years. The traditional palette of white, red, yellow and black comes from the ochre that naturally occurs in the region, although contemporary artists sometimes choose to paint in acrylics as well. Kunwinjku artists famously paint using either the traditional rarrk hatching technique, or the more contemporary and complex cross hatching technique which has been adapted from ceremonial painting. These lines are carefully painted using a manyilk, which is a piece of sedge grass shaved down until only a few fibres remain.
- Artist skin name: Nawakadj
- Clan: Barrbinj
- Born: 1975
- Language group: Bininj-Kunwok
- Community: Gunbalanya (Oenpelli)
- Year created: 2023
- Artwork certificate provided
Jonathan was born and raised in Gunbalanya. He is the son of Florie and Djidawaynga Garnarradj. He enjoys spending time at the art centre with other artists when he is not working. Jonathan does some painting in his spare time on canvas, Mako (Didjiridu) and Lorrkon (Hollow log). When he goes out bush hunting, he is also getting materials to make carvings.
Jonathan has worked at Gunbalanya Meatworks for a number of years. It was established to process the locally farmed cattle.He remembers when they hunted buffalo to sell in the shop, which no longer happens. He sometimes goes out bush to hunt them. When someone has hunted a buffalo there is a big feast, plenty for everyone to eat.