Desecrating the Rainbow Serpent: a painting by
Jacky Green (2014)
At the top of the painting, guarded by the Junggayi (Boss for Country) and Minggirringi (Owner of Country), are the eyes of The Rainbow Serpent. The Junggayi and Minggirringi are worried that The Snake is being desecrated. The Rainbow Serpent is one of our spiritually powerful ancestral beings. It rests under McArthur River in the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria. Under our law we hold responsibility for protecting its resting place from disturbance, and responsibility for nurturing its spirit with ceremony and song—just as our ancestors have done since the beginning. The left of the painting represents a time when we had authority over country. We lived on country, hunted, fished and gathered our food on country. We used fire to care for it, and most importantly, we protected our sacred places within it. By protecting and nurturing our sacred sites we protect and nurture our spirituality and our wellbeing as Gudanji, Garrwa, Mara and Yanayu peoples. The right of the painting represents the present time (2014) when we still have no authority over all of our ancestral country. The artwork illustrates how the resting place of The Rainbow Serpent looks now. It’s been smashed by McArthur River Mine. Country, torn open to make way for one of the largest lead, zinc and silver mines the the world has ever seen. To do this they cut the back of our ancestor—The Rainbow Serpent—by severing McArthur River and diverting it through a 5.5 kilometre diversion cut into our country.
A lot of people have died because of the desecration of our sacred places. Interfering with these powerful places, it pulls people down. The stress of seeing our land suffer means we suffer. Men tried to fight but got pulled down. I might be the next one, or the Junggayi will go down. The mining executive might go too. All this pressure, it’s no good.