48.3 x 58.4cm
When the kestrel, iniaraka (Falco cenchroides) first appears in the myth he was camped with his wife and children at a totemic place called Arunagura, on the southern shores of Uralili Bay, western Bickerton Island. At the time he was a man. Every day Inikaraka went out hunting bringing back all kinds of food, wallabies, bandicoots, birds and fish, which he cooked at his campfire.
One day the kestrel met the serpent, aitja, just as the latter was getting ready to leave Munultjira, in Bickerton Island, for the mainland. Another evening the crab, unwala, seeing the light in inikaraka’s campfire came across to visit him. The kestrel, inikaraka, asked the crab to bring his family and live close by, but unwala, not wanting to leave his waterhole, politely refused and returned to his own camp.
When inikaraka and his family left their camp at Uralili Bay, they were transformed into birds: their camp became a hole at the top of a cliff and their camp fire a series of markings and water-stains on a high eroded cliff nearby. From Uralili Bay the kestrel and his wife went to Ilja-pilja-madja, on the western coast of Bickerton Island, where they dug a hole, made a nest and hatched out a family of chicks. The nest is now a waterhole in the middle of a large depression.
Leaving Ilja-pilja-madja, the inikaraka travelled to Moanda-madja, on the west coast of Port Langdon in Groote Eylandt, where they rested before resuming their journey southwards. Today, their one-time camp is a group of three low caves, made by the erosion of a sea cliff. The cave to the north was the camp of the man, the one to the south that of the wife, and the central, smallest cave, that of one of the chicks, the others having flown away. The kestrel his wife and single chick left Moanda-madja and, travelling down the east coast of Groote Eylandt, established a camp at Mangala. At Mangala there are three caves where, it is believed, inikaraka, his wife and their single chick still live.
[Charles P. Mountford, 'Records of the American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land vol. 1: Art, myth and symbolism', pg. 71-73]
Jonathan Jones (Australia, b.1978) (Author), Mountford Gifts: Works from the American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land 1948, Sydney, 2009, 3.
National Art Gallery of New South Wales (Australia, estab. 1874), Purchases and Acquisitions for 1956 National Art Gallery of N.S.W., Sydney, 1956, 21. cat.no. 48; titled 'Kestrel'
Charles P Mountford (Australia) (Editor), Records of the American-Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land 1: Art, myth and symbolism, Melbourne, 1956, 71, 73 (illus.). plate no. 21E
Gamarada, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 15 Nov 1996–16 Feb 1997.
Mountford Gifts: Works from the American Australian scientific expedition to Arnhem Land 1948, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 21 Mar 2009–03 Jun 2009.