Ngarrbek   Echidna by Gloreen Campion

Ngarrbek Echidna

It is well known that Aboriginal art often depicts images of sacred totems or dreamings of Aboriginal culture. However, the world of the non-sacred also provides a rich source of subject matter for Aboriginal art. Much of the rock art of western Arnhem Land for example features secular topics such as common food animals and plants, depicted because of their economic importance but also merely because of their existence in the environment. Eastern Kunwinjku art is well known for its relationship to rock art in the Mann River region. A number of rock art sites in this region depict images of echidnas. One local Mann River mythology tells of the rock spirits called Mimih who keep a pet echidna which can take on the form of a dog called Djamuwanki Thus the painting of animals such as this echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), ngarrbek in Kunwinjku language, represents the animal as a food source, a personal totem and a reference to popular mythology