Chern’ee shares her peoples history through her art
My name is Chern’ee Sutton and I am a contemporary Indigenous artist from the Kalkadoon people from the Mount Isa area in Queensland. Yaruwala Kuntarra in the Kalkadoon language means “Rainbow Snake” and this story is my interpretation of the world’s oldest continual living belief which is the rainbow serpent or snake Yaruwala Kuntarra.
Long, long ago when the world lay flat and there was never any rain there lived an enormous magical snake that was the leader of all the snakes and his skin glistened with every colour you could think of. He was so beautiful looking and large that even the other animals admired his beauty, wisdom and magical powers. Mila Takujan was a fire breathing snake who was very jealous of all the attention that was given to Yaruwala Kuntarra and thought he should be the leader and so thought of a way to make this happen. Yaruwala Kuntarra was so large that he slept in a gigantic bloodwood tree and one night when he was fast asleep Mila Takujan collected spinnifex grass and laid it all around the tree and then breathed fire setting it alight along with the tree.
When Yaruwala Kuntarra awoke he was covered in fire and he jumped from the tree and started to wriggle and slither in an attempt to put out the fire but only managed to push up the ground and rocks and created the Selwyn mountain ranges and the dry Cloncurry river bed. Still on fire he crashed through the ground leaving a large hole behind and he eventually crashed back to the surface near Kajabbi leaving another large hole behind. He continued to wriggle and slither from side to side pushing up more ground and rocks and then created the Argylla mountain ranges. He continued to try and put out the fire and while he was rubbing against the newly formed mountain the fire from his body created the first quartz crystals. When Yaruwala Kuntarra saw his reflection and all of his colours in the newly formed quartz he took a piece in his mouth and used his magical powers to create the first rain which slowly put out the fire on his back. It continued to rain and rain and the large holes that were left in the ground by Yaruwala Kuntarra became the first permanent waterholes and the empty river beds filled and flowed with the first rivers. To stop the never ending rains Yaruwala Kuntarra left Kalkadoon country and went to the skies where he became the first rainbow.
To this day quartz crystals are used by medicine men in rain making ceremonies and Yaruwala Kuntarra signals to everyone that the rains have finished by showing all his beauty in his many different colours.
Read more on Chern’ee next week