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Reverberations of a rock painting episode in Kakadu National Park

In this new article Joakim Goldhahn and his co-authors explore and reevaluate a rock art painting episode at Koongarra in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, Australia. This painting depicts a macropod created by Billy Miargu when he camped at a sandstone outlier with his wife and young daughter. It was documented by two rock art scholars, George Chaloupka and Robert Edwards, but interpreted as untraditional ‘casual art’.

The painted kangaroo, the artist Billy Miargu, his wife Daphnie Baljur (sitting) and their youngest daughter Linda on Billy's arm (photograph taken by George Chaloupka in December 1972, now in Parks Australia’s archive at Bowali in Jabiru, NT, published with their kind permission).

Using a community-based approach, we reevaluate this painting episode by (i) exploring the depicted subject matter from an emic perspective, demonstrating how it refers to the origin myth of an important ceremony, and, (ii) through interviews with the descendants of the artist, we discuss and investigate how the 1972 painting episode is commemorated and understood today.

Some of the descendants to Billy Miargu and Daphnie Baljur visiting Two Leg Rock, 2 June 2019. From left to right: Julie Blawgur, Linda Biyalwanga, Linda’s daughter Ruby Djandjomerr, Linda’s granddaughter Keena Djandjomerr (on the ledge), Julie’s daughter Syanne Naborlhborlh and Joanne Sullivan (photograph by IGJ)

Our findings are grounded in contemporary discussion within anthropology and archaeology that explores multivocal Indigenous voices in the interpretation of material culture in general, and rock art in particular.

Download the PDF here.

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