One of the most intriguing and perplexing legends of the Australian Aboriginal people is that of the Wandjinas, the supreme spirit beings and creators of the land and people. The land of the Wandjina is a vast area of about 200,000 square kilometres of lands, waters, sea and islands in the Kimberley region of north-western Australia with continuous culture dating back at least 60,000 years but probably much older. Here, traditional Aboriginal law and culture are still active and alive.
The Worora, Ngarinyin and Wunumbul people are the three Wandjina tribes – these tribal groups are the custodians of the oldest known figurative art which is scattered throughout the Kimberley. Perhaps what is most interesting about their figurative art painted on rocks and in caves is the way in which they have represented the Wandjinas – white faces, devoid of a mouth, large black eyes, and a head surrounded by a halo or some type of helmet.
The oral account of the Wandjinas has been passed from generation to generation as all of the Aboriginal Dreamtime stories have. The story goes like this – the Wandjina were “sky-beings” or “spirits from the clouds” who came down from the Milky Way during Dreamtime and created the Earth and all its inhabitants. Then Wandjina looked upon the inhabitants and realised the enormity of the task and returned home to bring more Wandjinas.
With the aid of the Dreamtime snake, the Wandjina descended and spent their Dreamtime creating, teaching and being Gods to the Aboriginals whom they created. After some time, the Wandjinas disappeared. They descended into the earth and since then, have lived at the bottom of the water source associated with each of the paintings. There, they continually produce new ‘child-seeds’, which are regarded as the source of all human life. Some Wandjina also returned to the sky, and can now be seen at night as lights moving high above the earth.