Aurukun, Cape York Peninsula, Australia born 1977
Aurukun, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, woodwork, synthetic polymer paint and natural earth pigments on milkwood
The relationship between different sections of Koomeeta’s Apelech clan is described metaphorically in the ancestral story of the encounter between Min Kena and Pikuwa, the freshwater and saltwater crocodiles. This work depicts one of the protagonists, Min Kena, decorated in rich ochre colours and clan designs.
Pikuwa lived at a lagoon near Kencherang, south of Aurukun in the artist’s mother’s country, but often travelled inland where, on one occasion, Pikuwa came across Min Kena and his wives, who lived at Mungkan Creek, north of Pormpuraaw in freshwater country. Having a reputation for liking women, Pikuwa stole one of Min Kena’s wives, causing an almighty battle between the male crocodiles.
Min Kena and Pikuwa ferociously bit and clawed at each other. In one version of the narrative, the salt water bit the freshwater crocodile on the tail, irrevocably shortening the tail of all freshwater crocodiles. Freshwater crocodile bit saltwater’s snout, thereafter shortening it for all saltwater crocodiles. Another version also has Pikuwa hitting Min Kena between the shoulder blades with a firestick, causing his neck to swell and, thereby, all crocodile necks to thicken. Min Kena, however, eventually proved too strong, fatally wounding Pikuwa before he died.
Both ancestral beings returned to their respective territories where they entered the earth. These sacred places are known as ‘aw’ among the Wik people, and represent the locus of their clan identity. Contemporary artists like Koomeeta continue to evoke the ancestral power present in these places through painted and sculpted images of the ancestors both in their human and, as in this case, their animal form.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010