“Every race of people has a culture to follow.
If you lose your culture you are floating… lost.
The Mowanjum artists are strong and they know it is their job
to pass on their knowledge to young people,
to keep the spirit of the Wandjina alive.”
In the culture of the Worrorra, Ngarinyin, and Wunumbal tribes, which make up the Mowanjum community outside Derby, Western Australia, the Wandjina is the supreme spirit being.
The tribes came together early this century at the Kunmunya Presbyterian mission and the government settlement at Munja. Since 1950, they have endured many forced moves, first to Wotjulum, then to the old Mowanjum site and, finally, to the present day Mowanjum site about 15 kilometres outside Derby.
As with most complex cultures, opinions about creation can differ. According to David Mowaljarlai (dec), a highly respected Mowanjum elder, the Worrorra, Ngarinyin and Wunumbal people are the three Wandjina tribes. Only these three tribes see the Wandjinas as the true creators of the land. Many other Australian Aboriginal tribes believe that the Dreamtime snake or Rainbow Serpent was the main creative force.