Ngalyod, the Rainbow Serpent is regarded as a most important ancestor spirit in western Arnhem Land and appears in various manifestations in Kunwinjku mythology. In the Dreamtime she assumed a range of animal forms including snake, kangaroo and crocodile and at times transformed her self from one to the other, or into a combination of each. It is believed that as a serpent she tunnels underground using barbed extensions from her head and the bony protuberance from her neck as aids. It is believed that Ngalyod dwells in various billabongs (lagoons) in Arnhem Land today, sometimes swallowing binninj (the Kunwinjku term for Aboriginal person) as punishment when they break traditional laws. Ngalyod is painted by many Kunwinjku artists, according to each artist’s own imagination and mythological background. She is often depicted with the leaves of the mandem (water lily) protruding from her back.
This etching is the result of a printmaking workshop with Melbourne based printmaker Andrew Sinclair. Andrew has travelled to Injalak Arts in western Arnhem since 2009 working with artists including Bardayal Nadjamerrek AO (dec), Graham Badari, Solomon Girrabul, Ezariah Kelly, Wilfred Nawirridj, Bruce Nabegeyo and Terrence Nabegeyo.
The Stone Country of Western Arnhem Land is a unique, remote and richly diverse landscape rich with rock art galleries containing ancient imagery that is intrinsic to the spiritual life of the community.
Kunwinjku people believe ancestral beings travelled through the country creating landmarks and places in which they continue to dwell, known as Djang (Dreaming). Accordingly the Kunwinjku people maintain a profound and ancient visual tradition. Paintings on rock, bark and (more recently) prints connect with ancient rituals, stories and spiritual associations. Rendered simply and directly onto steel plate these etchings narrate the soul and spirit of the Stone Country and its inhabitants.