Monday, December 11, 2006


As you may have noticed, Wandjina spirits have been appearing all around Perth, in spraypaint form. Particularly, it seems, in the back laneways and vacant lots around my stomping ground of Highgate. It just goes to show what a boring place Perth must be, if graffiti can make it not only into the electricnerve, but also into the (slightly more) mainstream news media. Stories about Wandjina graffiti have appeared on ABC radio, Channel 10 (a report by upcoming media star Narelda Jacobs - you go girl) and SBS. Local Noongar elders have said they find the graffiti culturally inappropriate. Not up to me to comment on aboriginal spirituality, let alone appropriateness. Appropriate behaviour is not my forte. But i will comment anyway. I quite like the graffiti pieces as i think they raise both eyebrows and awareness. Awareness about the system of laws, beliefs and spirituality that prevailed in this country long before the appearance of the wadjela.

I'm such a big fan of cultural inappropriation that i am seeking permission from the custodians to have a traditional Wandjina image tattooed onto me. "What? But you're not aboriginal!" is the usual response to this suggestion. Hmm. And all the people with japanese symbols tattooed on them are japanese, right? I like the icon, both as a design, and for what it represents. If you don't like the idea, tough titties. Or use the comment button; that's what it's for. My research on Wandjina spirits has seen them variously described as the spirits who control the rains and pattern of seasons in the Kimberley, and as Lawmakers (perhaps the two concepts are intertwined?) - so such a tattoo would also represent my concern over global warming (god how i hate that term - it sounds so warm and friendly - how about global overheating), my unwavering respect for the Law, and my ironic sense of humour. Yes, it's all about me.

But that's enough about me. Let's talk about you. What do you think about me? (Again, see the comments button.)

Tattoo guru Dave Lllewellyn from Living Art was going to tattoo this design onto my hide, until we had a slight misunderstanding, and he suggested that now, instead of tattooing me, he would come around and punch my lights out. Perhaps this misunderstanding over his girlfriend arose because i was not treating the Wandjina image with enough respect. Bad things happen to those who do not treat this image with enough respect. Bad things can also happen to those who do not treat a tattooist's girlfriend with enough respect.

Donny Woolagoodja, Chairman of the Mowanjum Artists Spirit of the Wandjina Aboriginal Corporation, has been quoted as saying that the misuse of the Wandjina could be "spiritually harmful" to the person or persons involved. Donny and the artists paint Wandjinas, and he believes the spirit of the Wandjina can benefit wadjelas, or whitefellas: "If white people have a Wandjina, that Wandjina can bring them a good life if they treat it with respect. They should look at it a lot. The spirit is in there." Well, avid readers, you know me. I am nothing if not respectful. I have written to Donny to ask his permission to use one of his artworks as the basis for a tattoo. I await his response with bated breath. Meanwhile, i will continue the cataloguing of these urban cover versions of the Wandjina on

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