Law of the Wardaman People

Bill Harney Little Lightning Figure 2007
Wooden sculpture with natural ochres


These notes are from a press release issued by the Museum & Art Gallery of Northern Territory to note the artist’s entry as a finalist in the 104 entries to the 24th Telstra Art Award in Darwin 2007.

Mr Harney, 76, said he is as “fighting fit as a two-year-old” and proud to once again be a finalist.

“I grew up with art and it is something my mother, father, grandmothers and grandfathers passed down to me,” Mr Harney said.

“Everything in our lives comes from our Dreaming stories that is captured in our artwork and which is being passed down to the younger generation.”

Wardaman is used to describe the language, land and people traditionally associated with an area of land to the south west of what is now known as Katherine, about 330km south of Darwin.

Mr Harney’s entry This is the Lirrmingining Story is a painting that uses a variety of bush ochres to tell the story about Grasshopper Dreaming.

“The Lirrmingining Story is about the part of the Grasshopper Dreaming when the little crawling grasshoppers were travelling in a group,” Mr Harney said.

“They were singing, dancing, naming country, plant and soil and all the different pigment – Barnjan (white), Liwin (red), Gilirringa (yellow) and Wumurrung (black).

“They were also naming the decorations and costumes of straw and grass for body painting in country.

“This story belongs to Wardaman Country, Wardaman people.”

The imagery that Bill has used for this sculpture derives from rock art at Garnawala in Wardaman country. Two large Lightning Brothers are surrounded by a large group of “little lightnings”. Bill also calls them mimis. He describes them as creation beings who were walking around in the Creation Time. Their images were frozen onto the rock walls when the dog’s ear got split. Bill relates this creation story in his book Dark Sparklers.

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