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Available Artworks

Owen Yalandja

Yawk Yawk Spirits - 2014

Natural Earth Pigments and PVA fixative on Kurrajong (Brachychiton diversifolius)
167.0 x 7.0 cm
EST. $12,000 - $15,000



Maningrida Arts, NT


Fireworks Gallery, QLD


Four Spirits From Maningrida, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane, 2015

Yawk Yawk in the Kunwinjku/Kunwok language of Western Arnhem Land means ‘young woman’ or ‘young woman spirit being’.


Sometimes compared to mermaids, they exist as spirit beings inhabiting freshwater streams and rock pools, particularly those in the stone country. They are said to leave their aquatic homes to walk about on dry land, particularly at night. They have long hair, which is associated with trailing blooms of green algae.

Aboriginal people believe that during the time of creation the Yawk Yawk travelled the country in human form. They equate some features of the country with body parts of Yawk Yawk. For example a bend in a river or creek may be said to be ‘the tail of the Yawk Yawk’, a billabong may be the ‘head of the Yawk Yawk’ and so on. Thus different groups can be linked together by means of a shared mythology featured in the landscape, which crosscuts clan and language group boundaries.

Yawn Yawk mythologies are represented in bark paintings, sculptures and rock art. They are most often associated with fertility sites.