Aboriginal elder, Australia, Birthing cave, Cave paintings in Australia, Cooktown, drypoint, drypoint printing, Glen Rogers, inspiration, monoprints, mother earth, Nugal-Wara, petroglyphs, printmaking, rainbow serpent, rock art, sacred land, Willie Gordon, writing on the Wall
The Rainbow Serpent
On my first trip to Australia, I visited Cooktown north of Cairns on the Cape York Peninsula. I specifically sought out rock art since I knew the indigenous culture dated back thousand of years. I had scoped out an area about 25 miles out that was protected by park lands, but then noticed a message on a bulletin board advertising a walk thru the bush with an aboriginal guide. I jumped at the opportunity to visit the ancestral lands of the Nugal-wara normally closed to the public. There were 5 or 6 of us who signed up to walk into the bush with Willie Gordon, an Aboriginal guide and tribal elder. He led us through a landscape of towering sandstone rock formations that we experienced from above, and then into the gorges.
The rock art was in small overhangs that formed a series of caves. We saw the “cave of reconciliation”, where clan would meet to resolve issues with outcasts from the tribe. Then we entered the birthing cave, with drawings of a pregnant woman, a child, and an upside-down image of a man (because men weren’t allowed inside the cave.)
The Birthing Cave
In another cave, images of a rainbow serpent, their image of Mother Earth, were drawn on the wall with pigments from the earth. When we stopped, Willie would draw images in the sand, sharing tribal myths and symbols, but what most touched me was his sharing from the heart. He explained, ‘It is our spirituality that determines our survival.” He spoke of the ‘light’, the Aboriginal basis for their connection to Spirit, and explained how the rainbow serpent is their connection to Earth, the practical. Water and light are their two most important spiritual elements, and he described how the cave paintings represent a pathway through life. Even today, the tradition of painting on the walls continues, as each generation adds their own marks leaving a legacy for the next. This was such a blessed opportunity to spend time with Willie Gordon as he shared with us his ancestral history and spiritual connections.
Back in the studio, I was moved to capture the essence of these cave paintings, so I began a suite of small monoprints called “Writing on the Wall.” Layering the images from my mind’s eye and from photos I’d taken, my intention was to create a rich surface that sparkled with the mystery I’d felt on this sacred land. I interwove images of the Rainbow Serpent with nature imagery such as spirals and textures carved into the caves. Scratching into the plate using the drypoint process, I created a rich surface before applying the ink to the plate. Subtle layers of transparent color were rolled on or added by hand (a la poupee) after the initial dark umber matrix. Each print is unique, a one of a kind image. Some of the prints are still available, contact me to view more images.