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Sacred Sites and Dreamtime Sisters with Colleen Wallace Nungari

May 16, 2019 2 min read

Dreamtime Sisters by Colleen Wallace Nungari | 90cm x 90cm | Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Dreamtime Sisters by Colleen Wallace Nungari | 90cm x 90cm 

Colleen painted this piece after a conversation about the way she illustrates the Dreamtime Sisters. We've talked about it many times before and know that the Dreamtime Sisters were once living people; Colleen's ancestors. They appear elongated and elegant in her paintings, and are always holding ceremonial fabric in which they use to dance with.

We also know Colleen was taught that they appear this way by her Aunt who gave her special permission to paint them, but we hoped to look a little deeper at where this actually comes from.

Learn more about the Dreamtime Sisters in our article: Exploring Colleen Wallace Nungari's Dreamtime Sisters painting.

The simple answer: Colleen told us about a sacred site on her country where Dreamtime Sisters are carved on the rock walls, and on these walls this is what they look like.

The Sacred Site 

The location of the site is both sacred and secret, only known to her countrywomen, but Colleen worked the site into the symbolic detail of this painting so she could show us.

Dreamtime Sisters: Women dancing and sacred site

In the centre, just above the tall Dreamtime Sister, there is a long decorated oval flanked by U shaped symbols. The oval represents the sacred site and the U shapes are women singing and dancing there.

"That's the sacred site. Where the ladies, where they're gonna have ceremony."

The women are performing ceremony for Arlatyeye, a pencil yam, and its seed. This is the only ceremony they have at this site.

Night time

It is night time when they have their ceremony and Colleen says it is the reason the dots in the background are darker colours around the site.

"This the night time. Dancing. Singing, dancing."

Dreamtime Sisters: Night time

Day Time

Warm, bright coloured sections are symbolic of day time.

"..is the day time, where the women go hunting for...or digging for...the arlatyeye."

Dreamtime Sisters: Day time

Women digging for arlatyeye

Dreamtime Sisters: Women digging for arlatyey

Women are represented in the day time, again as U shape symbols, digging for arlatyeye.

Next to them are coolamons (dishes with curved sides) that have arlatyeyes inside them.

"This is the coolamon where they put their food, like arlatyeyes".

Arlatyeye holes and water holes

The decorated circles are symbolic of waterholes scattered over the country or where the women dig for arlatyeye.

"Some waterholes, and ones where they dig, um, arlatyeye."

Dreamtime Sisters: Arlatyeye and waterholes

The two leaf designs at the bottom of the painting represent arlatyeye leaves which grow on vines that flourish above ground after rain.

Dreamtime Sisters

The Dreamtime Sisters are called Iliparinja. They are ancestral spirits who are always present; roaming the land performing sacred song and dance, looking after the country and guiding Colleen's people.

In this painting Colleen shows the Dreamtime Sisters being connected to the women and their ceremony through thick wavy lines. The connection is "in the air, like spiritually".

Dreamtime Sisters: Connecting to people and ceremony

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