This is a painting of ngaldadmurrng ‘Saratoga fish’ (Scleropages jardini) sometimes also called the Northern Spotted Barramundi.
Saratoga are commonly found in creeks, rivers and billabongs around the artist’s clan estate. The animal depicted is on one level easy to recognise and it’s meaning is easily accessible. On a deeper level the animal is depicted with intense rarrk ‘cross hatched’ infill, which creates a reference to Mardayin ceremonial mysticism.
Saratoga makes their nests on the bottom of riverbeds in the sand by digging with their tails and fins and lay eggs into these depressions. During mortuary rituals the Kuninjku imitate these nests in sand sculpture. At the end of funerals all those who have attended the funeral are required to stand in the ‘saratoga’s nests’ and they are doused with water to be cleansed from the polluting effects of the deceased. A large meteorite crater near Mumeka in the Liverpool River district is said to be the nest of the saratoga which now stands in the landscape as djang ‘a sacred site’.
In painting this image Marawarr is continuing a long tradition of figurative artistic practice carried out by Arnhem Land.