Weather: Fine and sunny
Air Temperature: 32°C
Pressure: 1012 hPa
Wind: SE 5 knots
This morning we were given the rare opportunity to visit an Aboriginal settlement and meet the Traditional Owners of the West Kimberley region. Freshwater Cove, or Wiggingarra Butt Butt as it is known to the local people, is a hidden jewel on the west Kimberley coast -a majestic setting that is still unspoilt and well-preserved.
The landing was onto a white sandy beach at Freshwater Cove and we were given a kind welcome by the local Worora people, who offered warm damper and cool drinks as they came down to meet us. We made our way up the beach to the top of the dunes, and the local women invited us into their shelter where they had a number of canvas paintings hanging on display.
Some of the most beautiful pieces of artwork I have seen, many of them painted by the men and women we had just met on the beach. The canvases ranged in price from $600-$5000, but still only a fraction of the price you would expect to pay in a gallery at a large town or city. Donny Woolagoodga, the Traditional Owner of the region, gave us a brief introduction to the area and shared some stories from the Dreamtime. A welcome ceremony was performed, and everybody had their faces painted with ochre, the same ingredient used for the canvas and rock paintings.
Donny then led us over the dunes and through the bush, telling stories and teaching us of local traditions along the way. After about 30 minutes of trekking though the large paper-bark and eucalypt trees, and traversing down through a sandstone gully, we arrived at a small rock shelter which was covered in Aboriginal paintings. As we entered the shelter, Donny began pointing out the individual images and shared some of the stories behind them. Donny is the Traditional Owner of the entire Worora region, and he is the only person allowed to paint in these galleries according to traditional law.
Donny explained this to us before he brought out some pre-prepared ochre, together with a paint brush made from a piece of bark, and begun painting the ceiling of the shelter. He touched up some of the old paintings; an essential tradition carried out by the Worora tribesmen in order to bring the much needed rains and the end of “dry” season every year. The majority of paintings in the shelter were of local food items, including fish, turtle, dugong and stingrays, all of which the Worora still hunt for and feed on today.
During lunch, the Captain repositioned Silver Discoverer about 5 Kilometers further north along the coast, offshore from a place known by the local people as Langgi. The tide was at its minimum for the day. As we arrived on the beach we had the opportunity to wander through the myriad of sandstone pillars which seemed to be rising-up from the ground like tombstones in the sand. Donny shared with us some dreamtime stories associated with this site, and explained the significance of the area and the events that took place here during the creation of the land and animals.
Before we departed the beach, the local people held a smoking ceremony for us. A small fire was created on the beach and green leaves were piled on top to create the smoke. We then walked through the smoke in order to cleanse our spirits and release any bad omens, allowing us to return to the area again one day should the opportunity arise. The authentic cultural experiences of today will be remembered by many for the rest of their lives.