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For the ABC-TV series, see Wandjina!.
Wandjina rock art

In Aboriginal mythology, the Wandjina were cloud and rain spirits who, during the Dreamtime, created or influenced the landscape and its inhabitants.[1] When they found the place they would die, they painted their images on cave walls and entered a nearby waterhole. The Wandjina style dates from around 3800 B.P., following the end of a millennium long drought that gave way to a wetter climate characterised by regular monsoons.[2]

Today, certain Aboriginal people of the Mowanjum tribes repaint the images to ensure the continuity of the Wandjina's presence.[3] Annual repainting in December or January also ensures the arrival of the monsoon rains, according to Mowanjum belief.[4] Repainting has occurred so often that at one site the paint is over 40 layers deep. The painting style evolves during this process: the figures of recent years are stockier and some now possess eyelashes.[5]

The Wandjina paintings have common colors of black, red and yellow on a white background. They appear alone or in groups, vertically or horizontally depending on the dimensions of the rock, and can be depicted with figures and objects like the Rainbow Serpent or yams. Common composition is with large upper bodies and heads that show eyes and nose, but typically no mouth. Two explanations have been given for this: they are so powerful they do not require speech and if they had mouths, the rain would never cease.[citation needed] Around the heads of Wandjina are lines or blocks of color, depicting lightning, clouds or rain. The Wandjina can punish those who break the law with floods, lightning and cyclones.[6] The paintings are still believed to possess these powers and therefore are to be approached and treated respectfully. Each site and painting has a name.

In 2007, graffiti depictions of Wandjina appeared in Perth, Western Australia. Styles ranged from stencil-work to a spray painted Wandjina driving a pink car. Using flickr and blogs, several people engaged in 'Wandjina watching', documenting the Wandjina graffiti they found.[7] These 'wandering Wandjina' angered and upset some Aboriginals who said that only certain of their people are permitted to depict the Wandjina, without saying who these people are.[8] A short film, Who Paintin' Dis Wandjina, discussed the Aboriginal reaction.[9]

Images of the Wandjina are displayed on the walls of the RIngwood Magistrates Court in Victoria, these are referenced as the National Gallery of Victoria

See also[edit]


  1. ^ This site contains some examples of Wandjina folklore: www. australianstamp. com/Coin-web/feature/history/abdream.htm
  2. ^ McGowan H, Marx S, Moss P, Hammond A. Evidence of ENSO mega-drought triggered collapse of prehistory Aboriginal society in northwest Australia. GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 39, L22702, 5 PP., 2012 doi:10.1029/2012GL053916 [1]
  3. ^ Flood, Josephine (1997). Rock Art of the Dreamtime. 
  4. ^ Akerman, Kim & Ryan, Judith (1993). Images of Power: Aboriginal Art of the Kimberley.  p.12
  5. ^ Mulvaney, John & Kamminga, Johan (1999). Prehistory of Australia.  p.405
  6. ^ Flood, Josephine (1997). Rock Art of the Dreamtime. 
  7. ^ perth.norg.com. au/2007/01/05/watching_the_wandjina/
  8. ^ www. perthnow.com. au/news/western-australia/wandering-wandjinas-mystery/story-e6frg13u-1111112784667
  9. ^ www. creativespirits. info/resources/movies/who-paintin-dis-wandjina.html